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COLUMN

Bush -- The Honest Candidate

Jason H. Wasfy

Al Gore is the least appealing Democratic presidential candidate in a generation. He promises continuity from the most corrupt presidential administration in the history of our nation, his personality is dull, he chronically distorts and exaggerates, and he believes in heavy-handed government interventions that are too liberal for swing voters. Why then is Gore within a couple of poll percentage points of becoming the next president of the United States?

Because a couple of years ago, Republican insiders and power-brokers decided to tap George W. Bush to become the Republican nominee. Sure, only a few years before, Bush was a failed oil executive who never held elective office. But he had become a popular governor with a name that reminds voters of an era before the American president would commit perjury, lie to the American people, and prey on interns for sexual flings. Since the most important measure of political strength in today’s campaigns is money, once the cash started to roll into Austin in 1999, Bush was already unstoppable -- before a single voter had cast a ballot or heard Bush debate his challengers.

So we Republicans were stuck with Bush before he endorsed General Pervez Musharraf’s overthrow of civilian government in Pakistan (his aides later said he didn’t mean that), before he referred to Greeks as “Grecians,” and before he didn’t seem to know what a political philosopher is during the primary debates. And those of us in the moderate wing of the Republican Party found out too late that Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” meant protecting tobacco companies and HMOs, going limp on anti-competitive monopolies, entrenching an increasingly corrupt campaign finance system, and opening wildlife reserves to oil drilling. Apparently the “compassionate” modifier has little to do with policy -- it means vague references to “extending prosperity to every willing heart” and speaking in Spanish.

But in the end, we are stuck with Bush. And we should stand behind him.

Unlike Gore, Bush trusts people, not big government. Bush won’t finagle and exaggerate -- Gore already has. Bush’s outline for economic policy acknowledges that free markets and the private sector are more efficient than government bureaucracies. Bush’s tax cut will preserve a progressive tax system while giving everyone a tax break, while Gore’s proposal taxes people extra for marrying and dying. And most importantly, a Bush victory will send a loud message to Washington that our public officials should never lie to the American people.