Saturday, May 12, 2007
The Party and the Candidates 2
My column in today's National Post:
Walking on a beach shortly after leaving the White House, former Bush aide Karen Hughes looked up and spotted a little plane towing an advertising banner. The banner said, approximately: “Jill, please come back. I am nothing without you. Jack.” She thought: “Wrong message. It’s too much about you, not enough about her.”
A shrewd observation, and one that sums up pretty much everything that is going wrong with the 2008 Republican presidential candidates. Republicans are talking about what excites them. But what about the rest of the country?
Yet each Republican candidates has a powerful national message available to him. They just are not using it.
For Mitt Romney:
Nine out of 10 Americans believe the US healthcare system needs radical reform. Two-thirds of Americans believe the government must guarantee healthcare for all. Most polls show healthcare to be one of Americans’ two top domestic policy concerns, the other being the overall state of the economy.
You are the man who as governor of Massachusetts introduced universal private-sector healthcare without a tax increase. Make universal private-sector healthcare your great national cause! Quit running as the social conservative you manifestly are not, and run as the superb manager and problem-solver you have proven yourself to be.
For John McCain:
Just this week, Americans learned that the six jihadists who plotted to murder soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, had collected between them 54 citations for driving without a license, speeding, or other infractions. One of them had been caught with drug paraphernalia, another with marijuana. And yet, in all these dozens of encounters with police, nobody had ever discovered that they were present in the United States illegally.
You have vigorously attacked the sluggish and inept US national security bureaucracy and the poor planning for the Iraq war.
But it’s not just homeland security and Iraq that have been botched. Hurricane Katrina revealed the unpreparedness of US disaster agencies. George Bush’s costly No Child Left Behind initiative has done little or nothing to improve the performance of US schoolchildren or to close the large gap between white and minority student achievement. And every knowledgeable observer, Republican as much as Democrat, worries about the low quality of Bush’s personnel choices.
In 2000, you ran as a reformer at a time when most voters paid little attention to government ineffectiveness. Today that problem pervades everything. You were ahead of your time then – but you could be right on time now.
For Rudy Giuliani:
America faces a seemingly hopeless, intractable problem in Iraq and the larger Middle East. Many Americans have lost heart altogether. They are tilting to the “quit now” message of the Democrats.
New Yorkers turned to you at a similarly hopeless time. America’s greatest city was suffering more than 2000 murders per year when you took office. Your policies reduced the murder level to under 700 per year. You cut the overall crime rate by 44%. When you finished, you left New York the safest big city in the United States.
You moved 340,000 people from welfare to work, stanched the flow of jobs out of the city, and restored the City University as a great pathway of upward mobility for immigrants and the poor.
Your critics say that you are abrasive and aggressive. So what? “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” as an old advertising slogan used to go. It takes an even tougher man to defend the free world from the planet’s thugs, bullies, and terrorists.
As for the abortion issue, say this: “I will appoint judges like John Roberts and Sam Alito. I do not want to see abortion outlawed, but I am glad that the national abortion rate has declined by 30% over the past 15 years. And we all would like to see individuals make positive choices that will lead to abortion becoming even more rare in the years ahead.” Then … stop talking!
You all admire Ronald Reagan. But remember, Ronald Reagan was great because he was a man who addressed the problems of his time. America today has new problems. It needs new answers.
05/12 08:30 AM