By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The McCain phenomenon is as personal as it is political, of course. But his advantage over Bush isn‘t simply that of a more compelling life story, or personality. If W. often appears to be darting glances into the wings in hopes that someone or something will cut short his stump speech, the problem is as much with his material as his attitude. With George W. Bush, establishment Republicanism has simply run out of things to say.
At first listen, such is not the problem with Al Gore. The vice president’s approach to an issue is to talk it to death, smother it with statistics, trace its antecedents and footnote its particulars. To attend a Gore town meeting is to come away with a nagging suspicion that he‘s running for National Bibliographer.
Hack your way through the details and detritus, though, and you come across a simple, and compelling, message: Al Gore is running as the trustworthy steward of our prosperity, which that doofus fratboy Bush imperils with his tax cuts. (That this message is of limited use should the GOP nomination go to McCain -- whose tax cut, and projected defense budget, may well be smaller than Gore’s -- is doubtless the occasion for some scrambling among Gore‘s strategists and opposition research ops.)
Gore is the candidate of continuity and incrementalism -- or, as he puts it, the ”step-by-step“ approach to universal programs in health coverage, child care and the like. The problem here is that the incremental programs that Gore wants to incrementally increase haven’t been particularly successful. It was the failure of the Children‘s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to extend health coverage to more poor kids that prompted Bill Bradley to propose his non-incremental health program.
In almost every way imaginable, Gore’s is a status quo campaign. His policy people are drawn from the Clinton staffers who devised the minimalist policies of the past five years; his volunteers are drawn disproportionately from the Beltway bureaucrats who‘ve administered those policies. With the definite exception of his labor backers, who actually favor genuine social change, the Gore people don’t have a boat-rocker in the bunch.
And thus far, this anti-agitational spirit seems to be working. Bill Bradley, who tried, however inexpertly, to make the case for a more activist government, fell short in Iowa and New Hampshire, and seems now to be falling ever deeper into obscurity. The insurgent of the month is John McCain, and the fact that all of this month‘s primaries are exclusively Republican (in Delaware, South Carolina, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia and Washington) means that the media’s, and the public‘s, attention deficit disorder toward Bradley will only grow worse. Inattention is Gore’s friend, by contrast. The March 7 primaries in California, New York and 12 other states will creep up on unsuspecting Democrats; Bradley will be but a blip in public consciousness, and Gore will emerge the nominee.
He is as garrulous as Bush is tongue-tied, and he speaks for a party whose causes, while they‘ve been muted, have not yet collapsed. But the capacity to inspire eludes Gore and Bush both, and from top to bottom, their campaigns are vast cavalcades of careerism.
slobodan dimitrov, McCain; Anne Fishbein, Bush
John McCain: Healing civil war of the ’60s
George W.: Out of things to say