Bush Rattles a Big Tin Cup

President Bush waited three months before he lent a high- profile hand to raise money for a Republican candidate and the Republican party. Perhaps he wanted to wait until a decent interval had elapsed after his erstwhile rival, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, was able to have a campaign-finance reform bill passed by the Senate.

At a Wednesday night fundraiser, Mr. Bush earned a cool $1 million for Arkansas Sen. Tim Hutchinson, who's up for reelection in 2002. As a new president, Bush admitted, "It's the first time I've really gotten what they call political."

After raising more campaign money than any presidential candidate in history last year, Bush should take a higher road while in office.

A version of the revised McCain-Feingold bill passed by the Senate will soon be debated in the House. The president, who's indicated he would sign such a bill into law, needs to be more sensitive to appearances here, and to heighten public awareness of the issue.

Indeed, Bush could strike a better tone by announcing that, in light of his commitment to meaningful campaign finance reform, he will not be making any appearances at fundraising dinners. None. That would go a long way toward giving him a share of the leadership on this issue.

Bush can reasonably argue that the system is the way it is, and until it changes, he'll carry on, politics as usual. After all, the Democrats' own soft- money fundraising efforts are getting into full swing, too. And Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe says he'll raise soft money right up until McCain-Feingold is signed. But Bush has an opportunity to set a better example and show he's behind getting rid of the corrupting influence of soft money.

Indeed, Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, has said the president "wants to sign a [campaign finance] bill and sign one this year."

So this debutante may want to consider just staying home.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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