George in the ring

VICE-PRESIDENT George Bush is one of the better prepared candidates for the position of president. Consider his credentials: A Navy combat pilot in World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor in combat, plus three extra Air Medals.

A successful oil salesman, oil promoter, and oil operator in Texas from 1948 to 1966.

A two-term member of the United States House of Representatives, 1966-70.

US ambassador to the United Nations, 1970-73. Chairman of the Republican National Committee, 1973-74.

US ambassador (de facto) to mainland China, 1974-75. His title was ``liaison officer.'' In effect he opened the US Embassy in China and did the groundwork for today's easy and friendly relations with China.

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1976-77. This was a cleanup job following the disclosure of much impropriety there during the Nixon years.

Vice-president of the United States, 1980 to the present. Seven years in the No. 2 spot in Washington is a ``broadening experience.'' He was given more useful work to do than the usual vice-president is given.

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others of the Founding Fathers had as good training, or better. But not in recent times has anyone had such a broad experience in government in Washington as George Bush.

Right now the polls would seem to indicate that the American public is looking for experience in Washington in their next president. They are in the final stages of their second experience in succession with Presidents who were strangers to, and in, Washington up to the day they moved into the White House.

Many Americans have undoubtedly concluded from the Carter and Reagan presidencies that, other things being equal, some knowledge of Washington and its ways is desirable.

In other words Mr. Bush is to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. He has ample campaign funds and an excellent campaign organization. There is clearly to be a long and vigorous contest for the Republican nomination between Bush and the one other important and prominent contender for the Republican nomination, Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, who has been in Congress in Washington since 1960.

The expectation is that the Bush-Dole contest will be a close-run thing, with the outcome perhaps undecided until the California primaries at the end of the preconvention story. Whoever wins will certainly be a formidable opponent for the Democrats.

As for the Democrats: We are at the stage now where none of the post-Gary Hart young hopefuls has broken loose from the pack. There is no present reason for thinking that any one of them will. There is more reason now than was apparent a month ago to think that the leaders of the Democratic Party, in their desperation, will find themselves trying to persuade New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to cast aside his own personal doubts and reservations.

Let it be said on that subject that leading members of both parties have, for their different reasons, been digging into the Cuomo past. I am told by highly informed Republicans that the search has turned up nothing concealed and no event or association in the Cuomo past which might prove embarrassing or damaging in the presidential campaign.

Hence, as of mid-October 1987, with the US economy still buoyant, unemployment below 6 percent, and much of the outside world still thinking that its money is better invested in the US (in spite of a few potholes in Wall Street) than at home, the US political scene is remarkably stable.

The reasonable prospect a month ago was, and still is, that the Republicans will nominate either Mr. Bush or Mr. Dole and that the winner in that contest will then run strongly against anyone the Democrats put up. The new element is that that person is increasingly likely to be Mario Cuomo.

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