I watched the Republicans debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, and I noticed how many of them tried to compare themselves to Ronald Reagan. It was, frankly, laughable. The Reagan Aura has grown far beyond anything a mortal man could hope to claim, but even the real Reagan was much more than any of these yokels could hope to compare.
I happen to think that the Republicans in the race would be very wise to try to show how much they are like our current President, George W. Bush. Yep, that’s right. For all the conventional wisdom that folks should try to avoid being seen with Dubya, I argue that anyone who wants to get elected in 2008 had better start moving towards him, not away.
There are many reasons why I believe this. Let’s start with the obvious fact that somehow got lost; Dubya collected more than 62 million votes in 2004. And at that time, his Job Approval, the number most media hacks were noting, was floating around 50 percent. The present media number is an average Job Approval of 34%, according to Real Clear Politics, which by simple math means that President Bush still has over 42 million people who vote by the Bush Standard. Not that 42 million would be enough to win, but only a complete moron would drive away 42 million or think that they could win without them.
Before I continue, I should be careful to say that I am not looking for a Bush clone. Much as I admire Dubya, the man has made mistakes, not least in ignoring the political consequences of a decision. It’s laughable, how many Democrats accuse the President of politicizing a decision when it is plain that he does nothing of the sort; after all, a man who wanted to play politics would have timed the ‘Fort Dix’ story to break last fall, or would have spun the capture of key Al Qaeda operatives for maximum press, or might have ignored the welfare of two Middle East countries in a bombastic effort to produce the corpse of Osama as some kind of bloody trophy, rather than let the military do their job and keep his mouth shut for the most part. Not that I want a Macchiavellian type of politician, but that Bush most definitely has steered clear of deceit and hype, and a successful politician, like it or not, has to consider how to build that political capital. James Carville may be a soulless monster, but he is popular in D.C. for a reason. Any successful President, like it or not, is probably going to need something of that killer instinct, or to trust an advisor who has it.
The next reason for would-be Presidents to consider Dubya, is the accomplishments he has made. I know it’s quite the fashion to tab Bush as a “failed” President somehow, but in reality his work has been effective. His tax cuts unquestionably eased the 2001 recession which followed the 9/11 attacks, his Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary nominations have been superb from the perspective of judicial reform (rolling back the tide of activist judges who ignore the Constitution), his National Security doctrine has prevented another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and has severely damaged the capabilities of Al Qaeda and other Islamofascist organizations (far too many people judge the war in Iraq and Afghanistan on the peculiar assumption that terrorists would have stayed home and been peaceful, rather than grown in ambition and violence, if we had just let Saddam go on in his murderous ways). And yeah, Dubya has done a pretty good job of helping Americans understand the signature differences between a Republican President and a Democrat President.
Folks also forget how Bush got elected. Every President has a certain element which makes the difference in election, and for many that difference comes down to, well, likeability. People like Dubya, and always have. Next to him, Kerry and Gore were stone-faced goons. And we’ve seen that before. Republicans should remember that Bill Clinton worked hard to show himself as relaxed and comfortable, a nice guy, while Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush came off as stuffy and self-absorbed. And yet “Poppy” Bush was a heckuva lot more likeable than Mike “mechanitron” Dukakis. And do I need to remind you how much more Ronald Reagan was, than Walter “Sourpuss” Mondale or Jimmy Carter? Sure, it’s not everything, but time and time again we see Presidents win in part because they just come across as a good guy. Shewt, remember “I like Ike”?
By now, you can see where I am going. Hillary, McCain, bye-bye, thanks for playing, but you’re both outta-there. I will keep up the suspense somewhat by not going further here, but it’s not that hard to understand, that the person with the “right stuff” to be the next President of the United States, ought to be studying George W. Bush.
With attention and respect.