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Jewish World Review April 10, 2000 /5 Nissan, 5760

Don Feder

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Media tries to sandbag Bush with running-mate advice -- After portraying him as the village idiot throughout the primary campaign, the media are now advising George Bush on the choice of a running mate. If he takes their advice, it would confirm their estimate of his intellect.

The Fourth Estate liked Bush well enough in 1999, when he seemed inevitable. But when it looked like Sen. John McCain had a shot at the title, they quickly decided that Bush was the great white dope -- a preppy who'd probably fail an eighth-grade current-affairs test. Their coverage of the Arizonan bordered on reverential.

Now they're on the team again. Every four years, they play the same game. In case the Democratic ticket loses, they try to place a side bet, by advising the Republican nominee that he must "reach out to moderates and women," by softening his conservative stands.'

To prove that he's no captive of his party's right wing, he is urged to tap a "moderate'' running mate. The reverse does not apply. Democratic nominees are never asked to declare their independence from the radical left by picking a running mate who might appeal to someone who does not venerate an image of Hillary Clinton.

Sometimes Republicans fall for the media's maneuvering. In 1996, Bob Dole chose ex-Congressman Jack Kemp, beloved by the press corps for his welfare-friendly policies as HUD secretary and his support for quotas.

Despite the supply-sider's diversity rap, Dole-Kemp got a smaller share of the black vote than Bush-Quayle in 1992.

The names most prominent on the media's short list are Elizabeth Dole, Christie Whitman, George Pataki and Tom Ridge -- the last three governors of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, respectively. All are Republicans the media can respect -- those who might easily be mistaken for Democrats in a not-so-dark room.

Dole won media esteem by "growing'' during her campaign -- taking such decidedly un-Republican positions as advocating mandatory gun locks and telling her party that its call for a constitutional amendment to end the slaughter of the unborn "is a dead end."

Pataki recently grew in stature with his lavish plan to expand the state's Medicaid program (to be funded by increasing the cigarette tax by $1.11 a pack) and pushing a list of gun-grabbing measures to make Dole look like Charleton Heston. His 1999 budget included an 8.9 percent spending hike.

Ridge is so rigidly pro-abortion that Erie Bishop Donald Trautman has declared the governor persona non grata at Catholic events. In turning off the traditional Catholic vote, choosing Ridge would be worth a dozen speeches at Bob Jones U.

Whitman (who's rumored to keep a picture of Nelson Rockefeller under her pillow) vetoed a partial-birth abortion ban, is a gay-rights champion and appointed a pro-busing liberal to the state's highest court last year. Since her re-election in 1997, she's proposed an array of new taxes on cigarettes, gasoline and motor vehicles.

The media aren't the only ones salivating at the prospect of Bush choosing one of the above. Pat Buchanan, seeking the Reform Party nomination, would be delighted to see Bush alienate the conservative grass-roots.

Though they rode to his rescue in the primaries, conservatives are by no means wedded to Bush. They understand the importance of three Supreme Court and any number of appellate court nominations.

But they also recall how they were betrayed by his father, on everything from guns to taxes. And Justice David Souter, a Bush Sr. legacy, is every bit as ghastly as Stephen Breyer or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The idea of Bush balancing his ticket with a nominal Republican presupposes that the governor is the genuine article. His post-primary campaign offers scant confirmation of that.

Bush's tax cut is all but forgotten, as it's back to "compassionate conservatism'' in the form of a $5 billion reading initiative. The governor is pro-life but won't talk about it, and he criticizes the NRA for telling the truth about Clinton getting political mileage from well-publicized killings.

While George W. may be the media's idea of a conservative -- most in the movement view him skeptically. If Bush is interested in inclusion, he should reach out for a running mate with his right hand (an Alan Keyes, a Bill Bennett or a J.C. Watts), as his father did with Dan Quayle.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate