Campaign 2000: fasten your seat belts
This November, we get to choose between two men with clear-cut differences in their approach to the role of government. Al Gore wants more. George W. Bush wants less. Here are some additional areas of difference:
The economy. President George Bush never quite grasped the economic genius of Reaganomics and let the 100 months of the Reagan economic expansion slip through his fingers. In a race between a gentleman and a scoundrel, the scoundrel won. Ironically, the scoundrel has surfed the resurgent wave of Reaganomics for almost eight years and, of course, takes credit for it. Even Clinton’s massive tax increases have not reversed what Reagan and the Kemp-Roth tax cuts set in motion in 1981.
Al Gore needs to distance himself from the corruption and scandals of the Clinton-Gore Administration and, at the same time, claim he can keep the nation on top of the yet-to-crest economic wave. Gore must promise the status quo.
George W. Bush must advance ideas that will keep us on top of the economic wave while, at the same time, making it possible for more and more Americans to enjoy the ride as well. Bush must promise even greater prosperity.
Both candidates will probably make the mistake of believing that promises of tax cuts and deficit reduction will attract more voters. Primarily, voters want a fiscally prudent fix for Social Security and access to affordable health care. After that, they want deficit reduction and tax cuts.
Credibility. Al Gore has a history of making false statements. Obviously, Gore’s claims of inventing the Internet and that he and Tipper inspired the book Love Story are false.
Illegal drugs. George W. Bush maintains that his life prior to running for elective office is private. After that, he’s an open book. Right now, there is only an unsubstantiated allegation of college cocaine use. Meanwhile, a former friend says Gore was heavy into marijuana on his return from Vietnam.
Flip flops. As a young congressman, Gore voted against civil rights, against gun control and was pro-tobacco and pro-life. Now, Gore is pro-civil rights, pro-gun control, pro-abortion and anti-tobacco. But flip-flopping on certain issues can be seen as a sign of growth.
Military background. Gore pounded a typewriter for a military newspaper in Vietnam. But Gore’s claim of coming under enemy fire is unfounded. George W. Bush flew the F-102 interceptor for five years for the U.S. Air Force and the Texas Air Guard. Because we enjoyed air superiority in Vietnam, we had little need for interceptor aircraft and only a few of the F-102s were deployed. How the public will decide the issue of Gore, the enlisted paper-pusher, versus Bush, the flying officer, remains to be seen. It’s probably a draw.
Family values. Apparently both Bush and Gore are good to their wives and children and both would provide the nation with “first families” of which we could be proud. Depending on one’s view, the pro-life vs. pro-abortion controversy will probably define which candidate has the better family values.
Restoring the dignity of the Oval Office. Gore, who on the day Bill Clinton was impeached called Clinton one of the greatest Presidents in American history, only added to his credibility problem. A recent study done for C-SPAN by 89 prominent historians rated Clinton, in terms of moral authority, at the bottom of the historical heap – right below Richard Nixon. Historically, Bill Clinton will never rise above Nixon, Harding, Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. Thus, Gore may have to reconsider his “respect” for Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, Bush needs to look more presidential and invoke the image of President Reagan who had such great respect for the Oval Office that he would not enter the Oval Office unless wearing a coat and tie. It is probably a safe assumption that Bill and Monica did not follow Reagan’s dress code in the Oval Office.
Hang on. This is going to be a rough and tumble campaign.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today.