McCain Endorses Bush
Thursday, May 11, 2000
From: Dan Stansbury
When last we left our heroes, the talk was: which candidate will take the middle? It appears that, even with the Vice-President mugging for the spotlight with the issue of China trade, Governor Bush was able to make peace with Senator McCain and garner his endorsement. Bravo to Governor Bush for this shrewd, calculated and superb political move to capture the center.
By gaining the support of a domestic popular centrist like McCain, Bush has dealt a well-placed and staggering first shot to Gore. And the timing could not have been more perfect. With the Vice President next to Clinton in league with Carter and Ford et. al. in his schmoozing the public to gain support for permanent trade relations with China, Governor Bush was able to finesse the headlines and media attention while posturing himself more as the man in the middle. We should not underestimate these circumstances and their impact on the race for the White House.
Permanent trade with China has been a thorny issue for every President for the past 30 years. Yes there are benefits, yet it does leave a bad taste in the mouths of the American public. This time the House Democrats are against the idea, citing human rights violations- yet these same Representatives are okay with sending Elian Gonzalez back to the sugar cane plantations of that "wonderful humanitarian" Fidel Castro. Curious logic, to be sure- but that's what Politics is.
The China trade issue is not a popular idea with Middle America: even centrists seem to be wary of it and I believe it will move centrists away from Gore, along with a good bit of Organized Labor. Remember the clips and sound bites that we have just seen and heard: we will certainly see and hear them again and again as Bush can now cozies up to the center and continues to subtly paint Gore into the box of extremist on the issue of world trade. It really is irrelevant where Bush stands on this issue as long as he can continue to move Gore out of the middle.
Well done to the Bush team for gaining a firm leg up in the all important battle for the middle. Al Gore is proving he is no Bill Clinton when it comes to running a presidential campaign. Unlike George Bush the father who had the Reagan juggernaut working for him (remember the Time magazine cover of "Over to you George" with President Reagan standing beside his Vice President in front of the New York skyline right after a successful summit with Gorbachev where we won the Cold War?), Vice President Gore does not have the Clinton staff lifting a finger for him and is- instead- pictured with two presidential losers, his president, and others wonking for permanent trade with China. Not quite the same image.
The middle is the "war zone" and this one looks to me to be the first shot over the bow.
Daniel D. Stansbury
The Green Papers' responds:
Well, it IS just that- a "first shot over the bow"- and we certainly wouldn't advise Governor Bush to start popping the champagne corks yet or begin picking out patterns for curtains to be hung in the Lincoln Bedroom! As many a Boston Red Sox fan in our native New England has said over the course of many baseball seasons (whether things be going well or ill for "the Sawx")- around this very time of year, in fact!- "it's EARLY yet!!"
We can't say that George W. Bush has yet captured the center, by any means: at best he has established a beachhead- he has yet to take the entire island. John McCain's endorsement of the Texas Governor appeared to us to be rather lukewarm at best: Bush has made no commitment to McCain's campaign finance reform agenda which, in large part, had many Democrats as well as Independents flocking to vote in Republican primaries for McCain up to and including 7 March in those states which allowed this practice. The fact is that Governor Bush needs to continually raise money (as does Vice-President Gore) throughout the entire campaign, right down to General Election Day itself, and do so through means now legal but which would not entirely be were the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill or some equivalent of same to be enacted; the Texas Governor clearly wants to have the upper hand in being able to call the Vice President a hypocrite should (as is almost certain to happen) Gore attack him on this very issue: he does not want to put himself in the position of easily being called a hypocrite himself.
Also, it was not as if Senator McCain had much of a choice but to endorse Governor Bush. We at "The Green Papers" never took the talk of McCain possibly running as a Third Party candidate very seriously: to us, the question was not IF McCain would endorse Bush but WHEN and HOW. The way it looks right now (and, of course, things can change over the next less than six months [yes, indeed: less than six more months and this politicking will all be over- Hallelujah!]), the Republicans will most likely retain control of the Senate (the Democrats have an outside chance to take the Senate, but it is just that- an outside chance which depends much on how Al Gore does at the head of the ticket in those states electing Senators this year) and John McCain will have to retain his committee chairmanships and rankings in order to continue to push a campaign finance reform agenda for which he will still have to fight hard no matter who is elected President this November. McCain was not about to risk this by bolting the GOP and, even if he had ever mulled over that possibility, he had the example of what happened last Fall when New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith attempted to run as the presidential candidate of the U.S. Taxpayer's Party and was forced to eat much crow by the Senate leadership upon his return to the Republican fold to consider.
In addition, McCain's endorsement does not automatically bring on board all those who voted (and, for that matter, continue to vote) for McCain in the primaries and caucuses; polling continues to show that many- if not most- of those Democrats who voted/vote for McCain have no intention of voting for Bush this coming November. Nor does McCain's charismatic appeal- apparent during the early stages of the primary campaign this past Winter- easily transfer to Bush, who clearly is almost as weak in the charisma department as Gore is. The China trade issue is potentially as problematic for the Texas Governor as it is for the Vice-President, albeit for different reasons (we say "potentially problematic" because we as yet really have no idea whether China trade will even be on the radar screen come the Fall: the Clinton Administration is playing the time-honored [the only way any honor could accrue to this practice in the first place] game of the party in control of the White House known as "try and get an issue dealt with in the Spring of an election year so that it doesn't come back and bite you in the Fall"- but even should this effort fail, the average American voter may turn out to be more concerned, come October's campaign blitzes and presidential debates, with "why Johnny can't read" [or even "why Johnny got shot in the schoolyard"] than an abstract, even somewhat esoteric, issue like World Trade): we disagree with Mr. Stansbury's statement that "it really is irrelevant where Bush stands on this issue"- combined with our comment above that "Bush has made no commitment to McCain's campaign finance reform agenda", this indicates what could possibly be a real problem for the Texas Governor, that of not yet taking a firm stand on certain issues.
If Governor Bush really wants to win this election, he cannot long continue to straddle the fence on such issues of moment and allow Gore to talk about these same issues without him (one is, of course, free to disagree with the Vice-President and say his talking on the issues is all about his taking the wrong positions on those very issues, but the fact is that Gore IS talking about issues such as China trade where Bush is not emphasizing it: we have been watching C-SPAN enough since each party's presumptive nominee has mathematically sewn up his respective party's nomination to well note this difference; keep in mind that many of the REPUBLICANS who voted for McCain [the very voters whom Mr. Stansbury's remarks make clear Bush is hoping to capture through the device, in part, of McCain's endorsement of him] did so because, even though they didn't necessarily agree with McCain's positions, they perceived McCain to at least be standing up for something [implying that the Texas Governor was not so perceived by them]; it was even more so for the Independents and Democrats who voted for the Arizona Senator- Independents and Democrats Bush will need to take from the Vice-President in order to breakout from the beachhead McCain's endorsement may have given him and, in the end, truly seize the center and, with that, the election victory). Again, we don't yet have any idea how "high on the Charts" an issue like China trade will be- even to Middle America- come this Fall: if it is, however, still rather high by then, it will certainly be very relevant where Governor Bush stands on this issue and exactly where he stands will play a large role in his ability to take and control the center throughout the Fall campaign. In addition, he may also have to deal with (however unfairly so) the rather burdensome fact that his own father- who at one time was an American diplomat in China (under Gerald Ford no less)- was, along with former Presidents Ford and Carter, something of a "China trade man" himself, George Bush pater's non-appearance with them in that "Rose Garden strategy" video clip/sound bite of Clinton and Gore notwithstanding.
We would like to now close our response by correcting what we feel are two misapprehensions on Mr. Stansbury's part:
First of all, Mr. Stansbury writes "Vice President Gore does not have the Clinton staff lifting a finger for him". Not true at all! Bill Clinton clearly has wanted Al Gore to be his successor all along: Gore has been a loyal Vice-President and, besides, a Gore victory would be, in Clinton's mind and the minds of his staff, a vindication of Clinton's own battered and tattered Presidency. The President didn't even bother making any pretense of impartiality in the Gore vs. Bradley nomination battle: although he carefully avoided stating his preference outright in public, Clinton's many fund-raising trips even well before Bradley was to drop out of the race last March were, without question (and sometimes blatantly so), fund-raisers for the benefit of Bill Clinton's Vice-President.
Whatever one might think of him as a person and/or as a President, Bill Clinton is the first true master of "behind the scenes" Politics to occupy the White House since Lyndon Baines Johnson. Mr. Stansbury himself notes that "Al Gore is proving he is no Bill Clinton when it comes to running a presidential campaign"- the fact is that Al Gore does not necessarily have to be as long as Bill Clinton and his staff are quietly ("pay no attention to that man behind the curtain") so helping the nascent Gore campaign. Mr. Stansbury's comment about the Clinton staff not lifting a finger for him suggests to us a feeling that Clinton is distancing himself from Gore out of some kind of embarrassment when the reality is that Clinton knows Gore will himself be politically embarrassed by being too tied to Bill Clinton and his many flaws, foibles and failings. Unlike his political operative doppelgaenger, Clinton is not going to intentionally undermine his Vice-President's campaign the way LBJ himself did by insisting, until the final weeks of the 1968 Fall campaign, that Hubert Humphrey toe the Administration line on Vietnam, regardless of the political cost to any hopes of a Humphrey victory: if Al Gore is going to break with the Clinton Administration on an issue like Elian Gonzalez (regardless of the Vice-President's motives in doing so), so be it to the Clinton staff if it appears to them to be helping Al Gore defeat George W. Bush this November.
Secondly, Mr. Stansbury writes "The China trade issue is not a popular idea with Middle America: even centrists seem to be wary of it and I believe it will move centrists away from Gore, along with a good bit of Organized Labor". Putting aside the impact the China trade issue might yet have on the vote of centrists per se, Organized Labor is not going to vastly support Governor Bush because of their potential opposition to the Clinton Administration on the issue of China trade: yes, a fair chunk of the labor union rank and file may- and, indeed, will- vote for the Texas Governor but their doing so will have less to do with China trade than other factors (their own personal financial situation along with their moral/ethical/religious beliefs and related positions on sociocultural and economic issues, for example: in a sense, this goes back to what we have already written above re: whether China trade will even still be on the political radar screen this Fall) and Organized Labor in general will, in our opinion, not prove to be big enough supporters of Bush over Gore in this election to hurt Gore much or help Bush greatly. Organized Labor was quite angry at Bill Clinton over NAFTA but it didn't cause them to abandon him in droves and turn to Bob Dole come the 1996 Election: there were too many other issues more "pocketbook- oriented" (health care reform, affordable day care, maternity and paternity leave, etc.) about which Organized Labor was concerned and about which Clinton was seen by them to be more on their side than the Republicans were; little has changed on this score in the intervening four years and so, likewise (and for many of the same reasons), Organized Labor as a group will not likely abandon the Vice-President this Fall. It will only be after this election (assuming- only for the sake of this argument- a Gore victory) that Organized Labor will turn on Al Gore, much like more conservative constituencies turned on the Texas Governor's father when he turned out- in many ways- not to really be, in the end, the "third term" of Ronald Reagan after all. "Over to you George" was very much a mixed blessing for the hard-core Reagan supporters (not much else explains a Pat Buchanan taking on an incumbent President mentored by Buchanan's own political hero Ronald Reagan); an "Over to you Al" would likely be the same for those who are hard-core Clinton supporters.