WOW! Surprise Endorsement
Jude Wanniski
October 10, 1996


Memo To: Website Fans and Polyconomics Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: New York Observer Editorial

The following appeared in the October 7 New York Observer. We can’t remember the Liberal Weekly ever endorsing a conservative Republican.

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(212) 755-2400

Bob Dole, the Right Choice for '96
A Vote for Character Over Sleaze


Yes, Bob Dole is a terrible campaigner.  Yes, the Republican Party is filled with neo-Puritans who would like nothing better than to codify their notions of morality into civil law.

Yes, the religious right and the right-to-lifers are wild-eyed fanatics who threaten our hard-won liberties.

None of these concerns, however, argues against a Dole Presidency.  Bill Clinton's party, after all, is not without its radicals and crackpots, and Mr. Clinton's skill on the campaign trail points to everything that is wrong about his performance as President.

In this election year, character is not merely one of several issues demanding our attention.  It is the only issue.  That makes our decision easier.  Bob Dole has character, and Bill Clinton has none.  So Bob Dole is our choice.

The President has spent much of the last year or so cultivating the image of First Father, the man to whom we would gladly entrust our children.  The notion, of course, is ridiculous.

If the President wishes us to think of him as a member of the family, two comparisons come to mind.  There's Mr. Clinton as the scarred and terribly insecure child who will do or say anything to get in good with the cool kids in the schoolyard.  Then there's Mr. Clinton as a salacious, middle-aged uncle who disrupts the holidays by passing lewd remarks in front of his teenaged nieces and talking smugly about his days in Canada during the Vietnam War.  While both spectacles are embarrassing for different reasons, Mr. Clinton's Presidency has been embarrassing for many reasons.

There have been administrations worse than Mr Clinton's, but rarely, if ever, has there been one that so often inspires shame.  We have been embarrassed for nearly four years.  We have suffered too long the sins of those yahoos Mr. Clinton transported from Arkansas, so many of whom seem to have spent the entire term answering prosecutors' questions.  There was a time when the nation looked at the White House as a symbol of leadership, of resolve and of character.  The President served not only as an elected leader, but as a bastion of the qualities we liked best in ourselves, qualities that we liked best about America.

In turning the White House into a better-dressed version of Animal House, Mr. Clinton has managed to squander the respect that the American people always have had for the office of the Presidency, even when they disagreed with the person who held the title. Instead of a role model, we have a floozy who will consort with anyone if it means a bump in the popularity polls.  Instead of a man of character, we have a bunch of characters, most of them acting with all the discretion and sophistication of the denizens of Dogpatch, U.S.A.

Mr. Clinton has damaged the office to which he was entrusted and the nation over which he presides.  There actually once was a time when the President of the United States was thought to be the leader of the Free World.  After four years of Mr. Clinton, the President is now just another figure on tabloid television.  We used to ask our Presidents about great issues of war and peace.  We ask Mr. Clinton about his underwear.  Worse, he gives us an answer.  In the end, he is nothing more than a flâneur and a poseur, "at best mistaking the shadow of courage for the substance of wisdom," as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote.

Mr. Clinton's wife, Hillary, has been a full partner in this sickening spectacle.  Her self-righteousness and transparent piety have not averted our eyes to her slimey dealmaking and fanciful fiction-telling.  She once thought of herself as the scourge of Richard Nixon.  Nowadays, as a practitioner of the politics of paranoia and self-pity, all she lacks are hunched shoulders and a five o'clock shadow.  She virtually ran as Mr. Clinton's running mate in 1992.  Now we have a chance to rid ourselves of both.  A perfect twofer.

The Republican Party has provided a flawed but highly acceptable antidote to the dumbing-down of the White House and the trivialization of the nation's highest office.  Bob Dole is everything Bill Clinton isn't. (The same could be said of Elizabeth Dole and Hillary Clinton.) After more than 40 years of service to his country, Mr. Dole has shown himself to be a man of character, a man who has put the nation ahead of self.  So, too, is he a man who has no need to consult pollsters and swamis to figure out what he thinks.  He is a decent man, and decency is what he will bring to the White House.

We believe Bob Dole can return the Presidency to its now shattered sense of majesty and importance. His sacrifice in honorable pursuit of a better world represents the best of America.

Our history is filled, unfortunately, with contests in which ill-fated candidates fell to victors who had neither their character nor their abilities.  Several spring to mind: Adlai Stevenson, Barry Goldwater, Walter Mondale, Wendell Willkie and Al Smith.

On Election Day, Bob Dole may well join this list of honorable losers, for the American public has long been a sucker for the "Slick Willies" of the world.  It's a cliché, but it's true: Sometimes lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.  Given a choice between a man who has displayed nothing but contempt for the traditions of his office and a man who so clearly reveres his country's institutions and is humbled by his service to them, we will choose honor over expediency.

It is hard not to remark upon the paths these two men have taken and the choices they have made.  Both Mr. Dole and Mr. Clinton hail from small-town America, that mystical place whose natives are blessed with common sense, decency, patriotism and, yes, character.  Mr. Dole's life, service and sacrifice sum up all that the American imagination associates with places like Russell, Kan.  Mr. Dole understands that freedom is dearly won and forcefully defended, that the life of a nation matters more than the life of an individual, and that hard work and sacrifice (and not indulgence and quick-buck scamming) are the nation's brick and mortar.

He is a small-town man New Yorkers can embrace because he also happens to be blunt, sardonic and utterly immune to the hooey that is second nature to Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Clinton, coming from a similarly underprivileged background and rooted, you would think, in traditional values, is but a caricature of a generation that decided it was bigger than the nation, the system and the dreaded Establishment.  His governing style is a product of his generation's self-indulgence and Little Rock's loose political morals.  He knows nothing of sacrifice and little of the real world, for he has been talking, and talking, and talking, for the last quarter-century.  Historians will one day note that in 1996, the oldest Presidential nominee in U.S. history was a man of action, while one of the youngest incumbents was a sedentary yapper.

Mr. Dole entered politics to do something.  Mr. Clinton did so to be something.

The President's supporters haul out the threadbare argument that a Dole Presidency would be a disaster for the Supreme Court.  What makes them so sure Mr. Clinton, the hypocrite who signed a welfare reform bill so fundamentally abhorrent to his alleged values, would appoint liberal justices?  Besides, the track record of Republican Supreme Court appointees isn't so bad: Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter are fine thinkers and political moderates.

Mr. Clinton and his surrogates have expended much energy snickering at Mr.  Dole's proposal to cut income taxes by 15 percent.  They, of course, are much more comfortable with soaking the rich to pay for their constituency's favorite social programs.  Mr. Dole's proposal could be fundamentally sound, provided he cuts the fat out of the bureaucracy's bloated payroll.  We think he will do just that.

Ultimately, though, all these issues are so much background noise.  Character is all that matters.  If granted another four years, Mr. Clinton will continue to embarrass himself, the Presidency and the country.

The American Century's signature generation has been Bob Dole's -- born in an age of muscle and sweat, tested by unknowable sacrifice and, in its maturity, providing an example of lives well lived, of causes well fought and of victories well earned.

Not for himself but for America and for the Presidency, Bob Dole deserves one more victory.

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