Advice for George W
Jude Wanniski
February 7, 2000


To: George W. Bush
From: Jude Letterman
Re: "Retooling" your campaign

I'm afraid it may be too late for you to "retool" quickly enough to beat John McCain in the South Carolina primary next Tuesday. But I understand you spent the weekend in Texas with your staff, trying to figure out what went wrong in New Hampshire, and make the necessary fixes. McCain has the "Big Mo," as your Daddy put it after he won the Iowa caucuses in 1980, before being slaughtered by Ronald Reagan in New Hampshire (by 27 points). You must try to wedge a "New You" into the picture before the voters go to the polls in what you have been calling "Bush Country." Make no mistake, George, I'm rooting for you. That's why I don't think you should take any of the suggestions I collected this weekend while watching the talk shows:

1. You were only seven points behind in the New Hampshire polls when Jack Kemp endorsed you. Then you lost by 19 points. This is a clear indication that "supply-side economics" is no longer popular with the voters and they want higher taxes, not lower taxes. To become more fiscally responsible than McCain or Al Gore, announce plans to pay off the national debt in your first year as President, by taxing Bill Gates and Donald Trump at 99.9% of their income and 100% of their capital gains.

2. The pundits probably are right in saying McCain came across as a Real Man in the Granite State and you come across as a Boy. It is reliably reported that he even says cuss words in the press bus, while all your photo ops showed you sleigh riding. There is no snow in the Palmetto State, which is to your advantage. To be more Manly, you should go duck hunting, shooting from one of the windows in the press bus. This will put you in solid with Charlton Heston and the Gun Lobby.

3. No more "compassionate conservatism," at least in South Carolina. In the last year, you have had your picture taken 942 times with little black kids and 785 times with little brown kids. The NYTimes ran most of them on its front page. In the week ahead, have yer pitcher took with John Rocker, the pitcher, but not for the NYT.

4. If asked who your favorite philosopher is this coming week, "Jesus" would work for you, like it did in Iowa. But "Strom" would be even better.

5. There are more war veterans in South Carolina than you can shake a stick at. And don't try shaking sticks at them, or they will gun you down. McCain is said to be favored by the vets because he was in the Air Force and he loves to drop bombs and is eager to be commander-in-chief so he can send ground troops into Kosovo. I know you said you would be "ferocious" in prosecuting the civil war in Yugoslavia, but for South Carolina, you should pledge to fire on Fort Sumter.

6. No more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to McCain himself. All this stuff about him being a prisoner of war for five years in Nam is a lot of baloney. I hear there is a Vietnam vet in Texas who says McCain was a paid employee of the V.C. and told them how to win the war by inviting Jane Fonda to Hanoi. Now if you could get that out, it would be big stuff around Spartanburg.

7. On the abortion issue, George, McCain says he would permit abortion in cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother. I think you should go him one better and say you would save the life of the grandmother, unless they are Cuban grandmothers, in which case you should insist they be sent back to Havana without the kid.

8. Promise to save Social Security by putting your economic advisors in a lockbox and taking them out 12 years from now, when the baby boomers will retire.

9. Notice that McCain grins and you smirk. Grinning is more manly, smirking is more boyish. For South Carolina, why not try scowling? It might be worth a point or two.

10. Have a press conference and announce that you have had the Confederate Flag tattooed on your you-know-what. Now that would be the manly thing to do.