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Alexander's Column

The final duhbate

Mark Alexander · Oct. 20, 2000

And the winner is … the American people, who survived three stupefying stage shows featuring a repetition of dullard scripts regurgitated by a first-class prevaricator and a fourth-class orator. Don’t get us wrong, The Federalist understands the critical pragmatic arguments for electing Mr. Bush, but Gee Wiz, G.W. – couldn’t you turn loose at least one or two memorable lines in 4.5 hours of rhetorical wasteland?

Mr. Bush’s selection of Dick Cheney notwithstanding, the “Show Me” State debate left conservatives still looking for some meaningful sign that he is more than just an honest, affable dupe – that he really understands federalism and the need for tax reform, that he will not fold when it comes to appointing Supreme Court Justices who will uphold the letter of our Constitution, that he knows anything short of a clear conservative vision leaves in great peril the liberty bought with American patriots’ blood.

Ronald Reagan won the presidency twice – paving the way for George the elder – not on prerecorded soundbites but by articulating sound conservative ideas. Additionally, it is oft forgotten that Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory to become Governor of California – the Left Coast breeding ground of socialists and Hollywood – and then won re-election, espousing the same conservative principles that would land him in the White House.

Supporting the elder Bush’s campaign in 1988, President Reagan said, “If we’re to finish the job, Reagan’s regiments will have to become the Bush brigades.” They did, but GHW Bush turned in the face of a liberal assault and retreated through his own lines. Now, the minor Mr. Bush has largely failed to unfurl the conservative banner, hoping instead, like his father before him, for a truce. But Algoristas will only tolerate unconditional surrender.

After all the analytical dust has settled from St. Louis, one may fairly conclude that George Bush’s greatest weakness was that he is unable to articulate the conservative principles of the Republican platform, while Albert Gore’s greatest weakness was that he is able to articulate the ideology of the Sociocrat platform.

For the record…

Here is how The Federalist’s debate coach would have directed Mr. Bush to answer a few of Mr. Gore’s verbatim comments Tuesday night – rather than staring at him with that “deer in the headlights” mien which has earned Bush the handle, “Duh-bya.”

For openers, as Mr. Bush started to answer the first question, Al Gore got out of his seat and walked up behind Bush in a choreographed move to violate Bush’s space and throw him off message – a move that worked for Clinton in his debate with Bob Dole. Mr. Bush, distracted, turned and gave Gore “a look.” He should have then asked, “Did somebody push the wrong button?”

Gore: “For the last eight years, I have had the challenge of running the streamlining program called Reinventing Government. And if there are any federal employees in this group, you know what that means. The federal government has been reduced in size by more than 300,000 people, and it’s now the smallest number that we have had since – the smallest in size since John Kennedy’s administration.” Bush: “Albert, two-thirds of the cuts have come from our military forces, which you have now stretched thin around the world. And, according to the Congressional Budge Office, people at the bottom of the pay scale have been pushed out the door while the Clinton-Gore Administration added 14 new layers of bureaucracy. As a result, for the first time in history, senior-level and middle-level employees outnumber lower level employees – a model bureaucracy.”

Gore: “For the last eight years, I’ve been on the National Security Council. And last week I broke off – I suspended campaigning for two days or parts of two days to go back and participate in the meetings that charted the president’s [Middle East summit strategy].” Bush: “So, he sacrificed ‘parts of two days’ from his political campaign because the Clinton-Gore foreign policy in the region is about to turn the deserts of the Middle East into molten glass.”

Gore: “You know, we won that conflict in Kosovo without losing a single human life in combat, a single American life in combat.” Bush: “That conflict in Kosovo is not ‘won,’ but merely contained. Most of those Muslim refugees will never be able to return to the region.”

Gore: “When I graduated from college, there were plenty of fancy ways to get out of going [to Vietnam] and being a part of that.” Bush: “Apparently there were some ‘fancy ways’ to get special permission to come home seven months early and flunk out of divinity school.”

Gore: “None of my proposals would have any effect on hunters or sportsmen or people who use rifles.” Bush: “The Second Amendment does not mention ‘hunters and sportsmen.’ Our Founders did mention the fact that a free people must possess the means to defend themselves against tyranny. George Washington said, ‘A free people ought to be armed.’ Even Democrat Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a man who served in an era Mr. Gore longs to return to, said, ‘The right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible’.”

Gore: “Now, under my plan, we will balance the budget every year. I’m not just saying this. I’m not just talking.”
Bush: “Gore’s total spending in the first five years of his administration comes to $2.2 trillion, three times my $712 billion in spending, and Gore’s plan will create $800 billion in deficit spending. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports that Gore’s plan would "produce the largest spending increases since LBJ and the Great Society. And, while we are on the subject of deficits, why don’ we talk about our nation’s ‘moral deficit’.”

Gore: “Instead of high unemployment [before Clinton-Gore] we now have very low unemployment nationally.” Bush: “The New York Times, not a member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, reported last week, ‘Economists and business executives say, much of what happened to the economy in the 1990s had little to do with Washington and was part of a process that began before Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore took office’.”

Gore: “He proposes spending more money for a tax cut just for the wealthiest one percent than all of the new money than he budgets for education, health care, and national defense combined.” Bush: “Mr. Gore repeated that lie in the first and second debates. It is still a lie.”

Gore: “I’m for a massive reform of the estate tax or the death tax.” Bush: “My opponent only wants reform for the ‘right people,’ and even then, only if they exhibit the right behavior.”

Gore: “If you want somebody who will fight for you and who will fight to have middle class tax cuts, then I am your man. I want to be.” Bush: “Shortly after taking office, Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote on the largest tax increase in U.S. history, including $115 billion in higher personal income taxes, $31 billion in higher gasoline taxes, $25 billion in higher taxes on Social Security benefits, and $29 billion in more Medicare taxes.”

Gore: “I think that the special interests have too much power, and we need to give our democracy back to the American people.” Bush: “According to the Los Angeles Times, my opponent has collected more campaign donations from lobbyists than any other presidential candidate. Even the Boston Globe reports that many of Gore’s friends, former aides, and senior campaign advisers work as lobbyists and strategists for corporate clients who often get access to the White House and Gore’s office.”

Gore: “Here are some promises that I’ll make to you now. I will balance the budget every year. I will pay down the debt every year.” Bush: “Promises, Mr. Vice President? Your budget will increase the U.S. gross debt to $40 trillion by 2050 as a result of the Social Security IOUs you would leave in that unfunded ‘trust’.”

Gore: “Parents now feel like you have to compete with the mass culture in order to raise your kids with the values that you want them to have. … I’ll tell you this: I want to do something about this…I will do something to help you raise your kids without that garbage.”

Bush: “Did I mention the ‘moral deficit’ that Clinton-Gore left for parents and their children to clean up? Government ought to stand on the side of parents for a change. The popular culture often undermines the values parents are trying to teach their children – and that’s especially true for the television, music and movie industries from whom Mr. Gore has taken $13.6 million in campaign contributions.”

Closing remarks:

Gore: “I’d like to tell you something about me. I keep my word. I have kept the faith. I’ve kept the faith with my country. … I have kept the faith with our country. Nine times I have raised my hand to take an oath to the Constitution, and I have never violated that oath. I have not spent the last quarter century in pursuit of personal wealth.”

Bush: “Speaking of telling the truth, I never heard my opponent’s answer to his colleague Bill Bradley’s question, ‘Why should we believe you will tell the truth as President if you don’t tell the truth as a candidate?’ Al Gore promised that Medicare would be reformed, and that Social Security would be reformed. He promised a middle class tax cut in 1992. It didn’t happen. Instead, my opponent has ‘spent the last quarter century in pursuit of’ political power. Should I be fortunate enough to become your president, when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of the land, but I will also swear to uphold the honor and the dignity the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.”

In conclusion, The Federalist Editorial Board would like nothing more than for the next administration to be so adept at canonizing constitutional policy positions that the Brief and Digest would be obsolete. Unfortunately, based on the plethora of opportunities Mr. Bush missed to contrast conservative positions with Gore’s advocacy of an ever-larger central government, our mission and future will be secure if (and long after) Mr. Bush is elected.

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