Jewish World Review July 13, 2001 / 22 Tamuz, 5761

Lewis A. Fein

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Consumer Reports

Bush to California:
"Drop Dead"? -- WHEN conservatives invoke the names of their heroes will they ask, "What would George W. Bush do?" Certainly conservatives regularly cite Ronald Reagan, reminding their brethren about what Reagan did or, circumstances and personal health permitting, he would do. Yet for all the current good cheer for President Bush, and the nostalgic if somewhat unrealistically halcyon memories of his father, it is unlikely Republicans will look to George W. Bush (or his father) as shining examples of leadership. Examples of humility and honor? Yes, both men possess integrity and strength, but neither is an ideological hero. And, as the Republican Party tenuously maintains its majority status, conservatives may soon ask themselves: "What happened?"

Here in California, the Republican Party risks snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. For amidst a major energy crisis and a statewide economic slump, the Bush administration continues its silent abandonment of California. Ironically, the public face of California's problems, Democratic Governor Gray Davis, now seems more likely to win reelection.

That Governor Davis is even a plausible candidate is itself a cautionary note: given a choice between an unpopular incumbent and no one, voters will prefer the pariah. In fact, Davis -- unlike Presidents Bush -- recognizes the most important rule of political survival, especially during a crisis - do (or appear to do) something! Hence the governor's implicit attack against Bush and Vice President Cheney as evil coconspirators, secretly manipulating the price of oil and natural gas.

Admittedly, Davis ignores important facts - including Democrats' anti-energy and environmentally extremist policies - while partially absolving himself of responsibility. Instead, he leads his wayward supporters against that conveniently popular symbol of evil: the oil well.

Again, it is the Bush administration's relative silence -- especially during a period of economic contraction -- that invites erroneous and unfavorable conclusions. Accusations of collusion between the federal government and the oil industry circulate, while the charges themselves -- divorced from even basic economic principles -- circulate. How long, then, until Democrats wrongly establish a causal relationship between Bush's energy policy (or his tax relief) and California's economic collapse?

It is the president's silence that jeopardizes the health of the California Republican Party. As the titular spokesperson of the American people, and as the national voice of the GOP, Mr. Bush must not forsake California. And yes, America's civil war redux -- pitting the eponymous "red" and "blue" states of the November election against each other -- is an insufficient reason to ignore California.

Bush must not abandon the true spirit of California. The state's recent governors, including Gray Davis, are technocrats --- not optimistic heroes. Perhaps, then, it is fitting that California's most famous governor, Ronald Reagan, is a former actor. For only a person of imagination could envision and realize California's majestic status.

The president cannot, nor should he, become a technocrat. He is an optimist, though some of his policies may appear pessimistic. But he must visit California, early and often, if he wants something more than a fighting chance. Unfortunately, the White House seems to have forsaken California, treating the state as a political refuge for that most curious creature of presidential wildlife --- Bill Clinton.

Republicans can once again become California's majority party. No doubt the path will be slow and discouraging. Conservatives may run and lose . . . and lose. Yet the GOP must first accept this political challenge. And, just as the journey will be long and bitter, the rewards of power may be more permanent. Thus conservatives may very well ask, "What would George W. Bush do?" - as opposed to the current political refrain heard throughout the Golden State, "Where is George W. Bush?"

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Lewis A. Fein