PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS & STRONG CURRENTS OF HOT AIR:
JOHN KERRY SNEAKS INTO THE "BIG TENT"
By Christopher G. Adamo
Unfortunately, once Reagan left office in 1989, prominent party operatives abandoned his philosophy, proving that they did not comprehend the reasons for his success. In its place, they adopted a counterfeit “Big Tent,” which has only served to undermine party successes and the Conservative agenda ever since. This approach was epitomized by the 1996 candidacy of Bob Dole . According to Dole’s version, the party would seek to incorporate every possible disparate viewpoint into its platform, with the intention of persuading as many people as possible that it concurred with their interests.
Bob Dole’s defeat highlighted the consistently disastrous results of this approach. While Reagan’s “Big tent” was built on the concept of leadership, Dole’s resulted from a vain attempt at following the crowd. And where Reagan’s approach resulted in a general elevation of party standards to the level of his own, Dole reduced everyone to the lowest common denominator.
In those circumstances where George W. Bush has embraced the Dole strategy, he has left gaping holes in an administrative and policy leadership record that would otherwise have been nearly impervious to Democrat attacks. The latest posturing by John Kerry merely resulted from his recognition of this weakness.
Despite the media circus of last week’s 9-11 hearings, George W. Bush largely remains beyond the reach of opponents who sought to denigrate his response to the terrorist threat. Not surprisingly, the Kerry campaign has since shifted gears and is once again focusing on Bush’s domestic agenda, but this time with an odd twist. Amazing as it may seem, Kerry now seeks to portray himself as “fiscally Conservative.”
After the hysterical laughter has subsided, a sobering fact remains. Nobody has done more to grant credibility to Kerry’s absurd contention than George W. Bush himself. In an effort to further the misbegotten premise of his “new tone,” Bush on many occasions fell into the snare of Dole’s “Big Tent,” spearheading and implementing, among other things, a school funding explosion that ought to please the most extravagant of educrats, along with the largest federal entitlement expansion since Lyndon Johnson.
As it’s name implies, Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program, instead of raising standards, focuses on the lowest and slowest (In contrast to the traditional American approach of “Each and every child to his or her fullest potential”). Nonetheless, Liberals at every level of the education bureaucracy, from federal to local, are just as adamant in their opposition to the program’s miniscule degree of accountability as they are anxious to get their hands on its accompanying funds.
Nor has Bush gained ground among Americans who are mired in the entitlement mentality. Like every failed Statist or Socialist effort throughout history, the prescription drug program costs far too much and delivers far too little to be of any real benefit to anyone. Neither has it yielded any political benefit to the President. Seniors who expect others to pay for their medicine know far too well that, no matter how bighearted Republicans are willing to be with taxpayer’s dollars, Democrats invariably promise to hand out a great deal more.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Conservatives have long been frustrated with Republican Senator Arlen Specter, a Trojan horse who does more to undermine the Conservative agenda than any dozen Liberal Democrats. Specter’s crowning achievement of recent months has been the disruption of efforts to pass a federal constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage.
In response, Pennsylvania Conservatives are pinning their hopes on Pat Toomey, a far more principled candidate, who is challenging Specter in this year’s Republican primary. Unfortunately, believing that Specter’s presence on the November ballot will improve the President’s reelection prospects, the Bush-Cheney campaign is pushing hard for Specter, even pressuring college Republicans to abandon their morals and give him their support. Apparently, in this “tent,” Conservatives are welcome only insofar as they are willing to check their principles at the door.
Who could blame John Kerry if he seizes upon such a glaring example of unprincipled pragmatism and exploits it to his political advantage? Perhaps, along with his newfound devotion to “fiscal Conservatism,” Kerry will now attempt to pass himself off as being “morally Conservative.”
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