Bob Strauss for President?

WITH some 85 per cent of the public supporting the president's Persian Gulf policy and with his own popularity nearly that high, it is little wonder that no Democrat has let it be known that he's running for the White House in 1992. Jesse Jackson is willing. But he's yet to be taken seriously by the Democrats.

There is, indeed, little interest being shown by possible Democratic candidates in making a losing race. ``Bush won't lose unless we get into a recession - and one that really bites deep,'' one Democratic strategist told us the other day. ``Or if this confrontation in the Mideast goes sour,'' he added.

Look at the lineup left over from 1988: Michael Dukakis says he would run again but the party doesn't want him. He lost too badly.

Mario Cuomo - since 1984 he has remained everybody's choice for the nomination except his own. He expresses interest, but most expect he will stop short of stepping up to the plate.

Paul Simon made it quite clear over breakfast recently that his presidential ambitions have stilled.

Bruce Babbitt? A bright fellow who came up with some fresh ideas in '88. But he never was able to stir up much nationwide enthusiasm for his candidacy.

Oh, yes, there's Richard Gephardt, the current House leader. The widespread knock on Gephardt from the Democrats: ``He's dull as dishwater.''

So it is that this vacuum of Democratic presidential possibilities presents a perfect opportunity for a ``new face'' to emerge. The other morning George McGovern had his own candidate: Bob Strauss. Said McGovern:

``He might argue that he is too old - but the more I talk to Bob Strauss, the more I think he has a handle on this country and a pretty good sense of the issues - both internationally and domestically.''

Strauss is known for helping other candidates get elected - and settling differences. He demonstrated that in 1976 as Democratic national chairman.

Strauss was effective as President Carter's special trade representative. He successfully concluded the Tokyo Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and directed its passage through Congress. Following the trade agreements, Strauss served as Carter's personal representative to the Middle East peace negotiations.

But Strauss as a presidential candidate? Well, anyone who knows Strauss would be taken by the idea. He is an exceptional public speaker. He is one of the wittiest people in Washington. And he's liked by everybody who knows him - Republicans as well as Democrats.

McGovern went on to say that there was little likelihood of a Democrat winning in '92. ``So,'' he said, ``let's put up someone who, if conditions turned in his direction and he would win, he would know what he is doing. Bob Strauss...knows government. He believes in it. He is not one of those people who say the government is the problem; but I think he would rather shrewdly and wisely bring together a good administration.''

As journalists departed the breakfast where George McGovern had been holding forth, they discussed the suggestion that Strauss be drafted for '92.

They said that they admired Strauss, that he would handle himself well as a candidate. But they couldn't figure out how he could be chosen unless he moved into the race very early and made an all-out effort to gain the nomination.

I remember Strauss addressing the possibility after it was broached by a reporter several months ago. Understandably, he was flattered by the suggestion - and said so, with a laugh. But he said that it just ``wasn't realistic.''

Well, I think that this idea of running Strauss for president is the best idea coming from the Democrats in a long, long time. With his intelligence, warmth, and wit, Strauss would grace the ticket.

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