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Jewish World Review May 9, 2000 / 4 Iyar, 5760

Chris Matthews

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A Yale degree, a Bob Jones education -- John F. Kennedy once joked he had the best of both worlds: a Yale degree and a Harvard education.

Kennedy, who followed his father and older brother to Harvard, delivered that jest upon receiving an honorary Ph.D. from that other Ivy League institution in New Haven the day of his historic June 1963 address on economic policy.

To paraphrase JFK, George W. Bush of Texas has a Yale degree and a Bob Jones education.

He owes the first to a combination of adequate academics and potent parenthood. Put simply, the Bushes go to Yale.

George W.'s education at Bob Jones University is a legacy of another sort. After giving his much-maligned speech at that South Carolina academy, he proved once again that a person only truly believes what he discovers himself.

Bush discovered that a presidential candidate may have to do some nasty things, but he better not come across as a nasty guy. It's one thing to carpet-bomb South Carolina to win a primary, he now knows. It's another to make permanent friends with the folks defining the targets.

Since February, the Texas governor has moved inexorably to the kinder, gentler politics that his father once so famously promised. He has zigzagged across the heartland with a message of peace and mutual respect, scoring both parties for what he called "a cycle of bitterness, an arms race of anger."

And it appears to be working: This week's Gallup Poll has Bush ahead of Gore by five points, a lead that may tell more about what the voters want than whom they want.

What they may want is a presidential season far apart from the pride and prejudice they have known for the past eight years: the endless Clinton excesses bound in uncivil union to the heartless assaults of his enemies.

If so, the Bush comeback of the past several months offers a powerful prelude to the autumn electoral season: Bush has learned that voters like him when he is not blasting away at his rival.

Gore has learned the opposite — that he slips in the polls the second he drops his dukes. To win, he must keep up the attack on his rival. He must do to Bush what he did to Bill Bradley: Open up a cut and punch it till his opponent's trainers can't stop the bleeding. Find something wrong with the Texas governor's program, and bring him down with it.

Gore beat Bradley by calling him dangerous on Medicare. He previewed a similar assault on Bush's foreign policy and Social Security positions. He said both are dangerous.

If Bush has discovered he looks better when the dust settles, Gore has learned that he disappears.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


05/03/00: Show of force!
05/01/00: Abortion polls don't reflect reality
04/28/00: Bill Russell and American racism
04/24/00: Vietnam 25 -- The good, bad and ugly
04/19/00: Nader's threat to Gore in California
04/17/00: Berkeley politician visits with Elian's father
04/14/00: Clinton and the Castro curse
04/11/00: Men who saved Elián from the sea
04/06/00: Caine should coach politicians
04/03/00: No. 2 spots: Woman-to-woman?
03/29/00: Gray for veep and Gore might coast to victory
03/27/00: The secret life of a CIA wife
03/22/00: 'We're suckers for underdogs'
03/20/00: Bush's California dream vs. reality
03/06/00: Scary Gore vs. hopeful Bush
03/06/00: McCain's appeal to 'Reagan Democrats'
03/01/00: John McCain fits a hero's profile
02/28/00: Grading the American presidents
02/25/00: Clinton remains No. 1 issue
02/23/00: Will Ross Perot aid POW McCain?
02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State — Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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