Memo to: Website Fans
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: 'The Case for Bob Dole'
[The following was written Sunday, October 27, and submitted to several newspapers for publication. When no takers appeared, I published it as a client letter on October 30. The Washington Times subsequently offered to publish an edited version for its Monday, November 4 issue. Note that there are no personal attacks on the Clinton presidency, no assumptions that he is guilty of indictable or impeachable offenses that make him unfit for re-election. It is as careful an assessment as I could make of what to expect of the two candidates in the next four years based on what we now know of Bill Clinton's modus operandi and a projection of what to expect of a Dole/Kemp administration. For a comparison of my analytical approach, you may look in our archive for A Transition Presidency, which we published as a client essay on January 12, 1993. If you find this material of sufficient interest, please alert your internet pen pals that it will be available here through the weekend.]
THE CASE FOR BOB DOLE
Supporters of a second term for President Clinton argue there is no reason why the American people should replace a successful President with a man of unproven executive skills. Yet, even if we put aside all the questions of ethics and morals that have clouded his administration, President Clinton has failed by any of the measures we have a right and obligation to apply and has given us no reason to expect better in a second term. Hereís the record:
The economy: In 1992, Mr. Clinton inherited an economy clearly coming out of recession, but has kept it teetering on recessionís edge ever since. The top tier, which draws much of its strength from international markets, has held up with the administrationís help to the big banks and corporations. The lower tiers are struggling with the same stagnation, tax and regulatory burdens they shouldered four years ago. The President cites his favored statistics on job creation in celebrating the economy, but these only prove the point that ordinary people must work harder in this capital-starved economy to make ends meet. His proposals to raise national living standards are limited to education subsidies for a work force already underemployed. He promises no better than a 2Ĺ% growth rate, which barely would be satisfactory in a fully-employed, capital-rich economy. Big business does not complain about the Presidentís approach because it prefers minimum competition for domestic labor.
The markets: Credit the President for protecting the bond market in his four years by reappointing Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. Long-term interest rates are where they were when Mr. Clinton took office. This is of greatest direct benefit to big business. The stock market advance is also top heavy, reflecting the steadiness in the debt market, with asset values at the bottom of the economic pyramid where they were four years ago. Short-term interest rates are higher, due to competition for the dribble of capital that filters down to the economyís lower tiers. Ross Perot is right to argue that our long-term problems of public finance must be dealt with now, or they will compound out of control. This requires fundamental economic reforms that will enable the economy to grow rapidly through capital formation. The President only promises to tread water for four more years, running out the clock on the twentieth century
Social Problems: The most important of these is the nationís racial divide, which actually has worsened since 1992. The gulf between colored and white Americans is not only wider now in both incomes and wealth, but the trust we need in our basic communications with each other also has eroded under White House manipulations of its black constituency. African-American leaders from Rep. Charles Rangel to Louis Farrakhan have publicly despaired of Mr. Clintonís betrayal of the black community, which continues to see more of its youth go into prisons than come out, more of it abandoning hope in the future for the culture of drugs.
Foreign Relations: The President inherited a world at peace for the first time in his own lifetime. We are not yet at war again, but Mr. Clinton has sown distrust of the United States throughout the world, his actions being the seeds of war and terrorism. His inexperience and impulsiveness have created one mess after another abroad, which requires ever-increasing resources to clean up.
*We now must send another 5,000 troops to Bosnia, to help extract the 37,000 already sent, with every sign that political and economic collapse will follow our withdrawal. The same is true in Haiti, which Mr. Clinton claims as a success, but which remains a cesspool of political corruption and economic desperation as bad as anything on earth. The Presidentís impulsive interference in the Israeli elections threw them into a confused result and disrupted the delicate peace process he thought he was helping. His impulsive bombing of Iraq without consultation with our coalition allies or congressional leadership has every global leader baffled at the behavior of the worldís only superpower.
*Mexico was booming four years ago. Then Mr. Clintonís Treasury staff pushed it into the peso devaluation that sent living standards plummeting and another few million illegal emigrants streaming across U.S. borders -- disrupting the public finances of the Southwestern states. Russia was beginning to creep toward solvency in 1992. It now is on the verge of a total breakdown in public finance and the gathering political forces are those most hostile to the United States, hostile because we have done so much to contribute to their miseries with the same kind of atrocious economic advice we gave Mexico.
*China has no idea what to expect from this President and thus prepares for the worst. First, he gave his word to Beijing that he would not give a visa to the President of Taiwan to visit the United States, and then granted the visa. It required the dispatch of the Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Straits to provide at least a cosmetic fix to the damage done. The New York Times has endorsed Mr. Clinton for a second term as a skilled navigator. Where is the navigation? With no known analytical framework, the President acts on impulse, and he canít change.
There is no greater difference between Senator Dole and President Clinton. Mr. Dole does nothing impulsively. His internal mainspring is a desire for respect, while for the President it is a desire for love. For the father of a family, of a community or of a nation, trust must be the most important ingredient. A man who keeps his word must necessarily give it sparingly, only when he knows he can keep it. The nation has come to know Bob Dole as a man who changes his mind, but who never breaks his word.
The Republicans got themselves into trouble in the 104th Congress precisely because House Speaker Newt Gingrich, like the President, needs to be loved, but Mr. Clinton is simply better at political seduction. A President Dole would never impulsively bomb Iraq or interfere in a foreign election or close down the U.S. government or break a promise. Yes, President Clinton has learned how to be more skillful in the conduct of his office. Ross Perot is again right when he says a middle-aged man never can change his basic emotional metabolism. A man who is driven by the need to be loved, not respected, will constantly have to break his word, because he cannot help giving it again and again. To paraphrase the song, Bill Clinton is a boy who just canít say no.
For a President to break his word in any significant way, as George Bush did with his emphatic promise not to raise taxes, is unforgivable. On the other hand, if you canít change your mind in 36 years of public life, you are not fit for even low office, never mind the presidency. When I met Bob Dole 27 years ago, we were in the same place on foreign and domestic policy. Being free of the responsibilities of public office, I could change my mind more easily, about economics and foreign policy. Heís traveled the same path, but with greater care and deliberation. It is no accident that my closest political friend these last 20 years is Bob Doleís running mate.
The team a President Dole would bring to his administration would quickly get the economy in motion, with the executive order that Senator Dole has said he will sign -- one that would free the population of $2 trillion in potential tax liabilities on inflated capital gains. The individuals Mr. Dole and Jack Kemp believe would make great Treasury secretaries and great Secretaries of State are the same -- persons who believe the status quo needs a kick in the pants. Dole also has promised to try to get Congress to cut tax rates across the board and then move on to a total reform of the obsolete federal tax codes. Bob Dole has not given his word that he will achieve these goals, knowing that power resides in the Congress. He can control only his own conduct.
His conduct of foreign policy would proceed with the same careful deliberation, making certain that no foreign head of state ever would receive conflicting signals from his office. It is only this kind of President who could successfully negotiate terms with the likes of Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Khadafy, et al. If this rare world at peace is to remain at peace through the next generation, our President has to have a sure sense of where our actions will lead. The ill-considered use of force is what worries me most about Mr. Clinton. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Finally, in a President Dole and Vice President Kemp we would have the first resolute attempt to bridge the national familyís racial divide that we have seen come out of any White House in our time. There are no two Republicans I know who have a greater commitment to this goal than Dole and Kemp. The leaders of the black community surely know that the 1996 Republican ticket is as good as it can get among political leaders who are white. Political observers of both parties who have been amazed at how much time Mr. Kemp has ďwastedĒ courting votes in the inner cities do not realize the depth of support he has from the top of the ticket.
Both men have been reluctant to be negative about President Clinton because of their respect for the office and institution, and because they do appreciate that he has been doing the best he can, given his personal and partisan limitations. Iím sure there are Republicans who are almost eager to see President Clinton re-elected, so they can enjoy the indictments or impeachments they are predicting for him. Bob Dole and Jack Kemp would be genuinely saddened to see President Clinton dragged through the mud. They like him, for all his flaws. This is the best case for a Dole/Kemp administration -- the combined harmony, integrity and wisdom of these two men, the best the country has produced who are available now to offer themselves for public service at the highest level.