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Forget Dole; Here’s the Ideal GOP Candidate

Robert Scheer is a Times contributing editor. He can be reached via e-mail at <rscheer></rscheer>

Finally, the Republicans have been presented with the perfect presidential candidate. He’s more conservative than George Bush, a better salesman than Ronald Reagan and a worthy successor to Richard Nixon in enlarging and misusing the powers of the FBI while destroying the right of habeas corpus. In the name of fighting crime and international terrorism, this guy can shred the Constitution like it was Parmesan cheese.

He was an early advocate of tough love and has recently proved that he can beat up on welfare mothers and immigrants with the best of them. True, he’s pro-choice, but so are most Republicans, and anyway, their leaders want that issue to just go away.

Bob Dole should drop out and let the Republicans nominate Bill Clinton. The president will co-opt any Republican position that plays well with the electorate no matter how shortsighted and mean-spirited. Dole doesn’t have a chance, so why go through the hassle of an election?

It’s hopeless. Clinton has the right stuff to win--a marriage of Nixon’s ethics with Reagan’s skills as a communicator. Clinton could launch a nuclear war and make it seem like a peacekeeping mission, while Dole can’t order a hamburger at McDonald’s without coming off like Darth Vader.

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Any doubts about the depths of Clinton’s chicanery were resolved with his decision to sign Newt Gingrich’s welfare “reform” bill. Ending the bare-bones federal obligation to poor children is something that no Republican president dared.

And Clinton is right in claiming that he appreciated the electoral potential of welfare bashing even before Gingrich did. Clinton knew all about welfare reform through the “Project Success” program he initiated as Arkansas’ governor. The project was not in any measurable way successful in limiting the abysmal poverty in his state. Indeed, the welfare rolls increased by 27% during his tenure. But Clinton hyped the program in the 1992 campaign and the media, preoccupied with Troopergate, never called him on it. This experience reinforced Clinton’s confidence in promising to “end welfare as we know it” without having the foggiest notion of what would come in its place.

The Democrats are better positioned to hurt the poor and favor the rich because they have so much credibility with liberals who care. Just as it took a hawk like Nixon to embrace Mao Tse-tung and legitimize Communist rule in China as a victory for the Free World, it required a “New Democrat” like Clinton to force millions of additional children into poverty as an act of charity.

If Bush had signed a bill that targeted poor women and their children, he wouldn’t be able to show his face in polite company, even in the suburbs of Houston. But Clinton and other Democratic backers of the Gingrich bill, like California Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills), are still being lionized by the liberals and feminists who run Emily’s List, although not by the National Organization for Women, which led a demonstration against the welfare bill at the White House gates.

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The Republicans need Clinton because he is best positioned to bring women over to the posture of heartlessness. Biologically squeamish about hurting children, women have tended to reject the Gingrich revolution. But now we have Clinton to explain the necessity for ending the dependence of poor children on food and shelter. Continuing with this reasoning, Clinton might even come to favor abortions after the third trimester.

You’re being too harsh, I’m told by more pragmatic liberal friends. Just reelect this man and he will prove his commitment to the poor in a second term. To that, I will offer only Clinton’s own comments on the welfare bill before he announced he would sign it: “You can put wings on a pig but you don’t make it an eagle.”

In a second term, Clinton will worry about the future of his successor, Al Gore, who argued vociferously for the president to sign this atrocious bill. If Clinton shows no courage now, when he’s riding so high in the polls, he never will. And what does it say about the future of the Democratic Party that of seven Democratic senators up for reelection, all--with the sole courageous exception of Paul Wellstone of Minnesota--voted against the poor and legal immigrants? W1769236512

Clinton’s failure to lead on this basic test of decency will long haunt him and his party. I never thought I would be sickened by the sight of a Clinton/Gore bumper sticker, but there it was on the back of a gleaming new Mercedes convertible in Republican Orange County. All I could do was mutter, “Take him, he’s yours.”


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