A Preview of Bush's 1992 Campaign
OF the president's surprising move to lessen the global nuclear threat, no one put it better than R. W. Apple Jr. of the New York Times when he wrote:"Sensing that the nation and the world had arrived at a moment when history must be seized by the throat, President Bush abandoned his cautious and incremental approach and in a single speech proclaimed the transformation of the security apparatus that has shielded Americans for 40 years." But as he was taking an initiative that Mr. Apple believes "historians surely will rank as one of the most momentous steps even in these revolutionary times," and to which Soviet President Gorbachev now has responded with his own wide-ranging nuclear cuts, Mr. Bush also was positioning himself beautifully for his reelection effort. After becoming the successful war president he now has become the disarmament president. All this has happened in just a matter of a relatively few months. To be both the war and the peace president is quite a feat, one that makes Bush a most formidable if not unbeatable candidate. The president also is positioned to use this awesome political clout to help elect Republicans next year at every level of government. His coattails might sweep some Republicans in, particularly those in close races. Should Bush use his popularity as a springboard for a vigorous campaign for GOP candidates all across the country, he might well make 1992 a truly Republican year. He could reshape Congress into a body that would be much more receptive to his initiatives. A GOP-controlled Senate is possible, along with a House populated by considerably more Republicans. I'm informed that the president is ready to make what is being described as a "rip-roaring campaign" in behalf of GOP office seekers and office holders. Also he is said to have a "compelling message" for the voters - one that GOP strategists believe will persuade those independents and Democrats who vote for the president to also vote for other Republicans on their ballots. Bush, I understand, will say there will, indeed, be a "peace dividend" but not of the kind the Democrats want. He will say there will be money made available through the defense cuts but that it will be used to strengthen the economy and thus provide for more jobs - instead of being poured into programs, as the Democrats are demanding. Bush will assert that money picked up from less defense spending should be used to reduce the immense budget deficit. He won't promise less taxes. But he will pledge that he will hold the line on taxes and accuse the Democrats of being irresponsible in their desire to spend the "peace dividend" instead of using it to cut the deficit. He will say that this Democratic spending approach will inevitably lead to more and higher taxes. Bush is expected to tell audiences from coast to coast that he intends to follow up the US victory in Iraq by a "victory at home." He will say that he does want to become their education president and their environmental president but that he needs help in order to reach these goals. By "help" he will say: "I mean I need a Congress that's a lot more Republican than it is today, one that will carry through with my initiatives." Another Bush theme, I understand, will be his intention of "putting our house in order" by repairing the nation's infrastructure and curbing crime and drug use. Those are problems for which Bush will look for money. Indeed, some of the "peace dividend" might well be used for such purposes. But he will make it clear that he will be spending taxpayers' money very carefully. He will seek to be perceived as the "frugal president" with the Democrats viewed as "those who throw money around." Does this Bush message possess a winning appeal? Obviously, it won't persuade many of the poorer voters who usually vote Democratic - when they vote. But it does have quite an appeal for those vast numbers of middle-income voters who feel they are already overtaxed and who think that Congress is already spending too much of their money in ways that are ineffectual.