Abe Rosenthal, former executive editor of The New York Times, now its resident curmudgeon,
Abe Rosenthal, former executive editor of The New York Times,
now its resident curmudgeon, writes the following (7/31/92):
SHOULD BUSH RUN?
Can he win? Should he run? Suddenly those questions about
George Bush are part of the conversation of American
politicians and journalists.
I think the answer to the first question is yes, and to the
second, no. That is a paradox, but based on the political
and personal realities that envelop Mr. Bush and the 1992
For months Americans asked those questions about two other
contenders. It took Bill Clinton time but he answered them
-- by understanding that the change the country sought was
a President who would be for a bouquet of goals and people,
not always wearing the same droopy ideological flower in his
Ross Perot answered by showing he was a master of the craven
art of dynamite-stick fishing. He threw in the explosives,
stunned millions of suckers, scooped them up, then dumped
the basket and left them gasping on the beach while he went
off for another sport, did our brave adventurer, leaving the
fish with the bill.
And all that print and TV smarm about the legacy of the "Perot"
economic plan -- he never created or adopted it. It should be
called the John White Plan, after the employee who crafted it,
or the Perot Plan Never.
But yes, Mr. Bush can win. He clings to the memory of Harry
Truman as if he himself were a good old Missouri Democrat, not
a good old Connecticut Republican. Saddam Hussein can elect
Mr. Bush by throwing a few Scuds at the Saudis or Israelis.
Or Mr. Bush can pull himself together, act and talk like a live
President, or even a live human being, as when he told hecklers
to shut up -- the hight point of his campaign so far -- or
start accepting blame instead of keeping on pouring it out into
dusty whine glasses, stop just getting mad at Saddam and get
even by backing the Iraqi resistance movement, or let Barbara
Bush say she is in favor of choice, since it is hard to imagine
she is not, or come up with an economic plan that is either.
Then he can adapt Hillary Clinton's fine line -- this is who I
am, if you like me, vote for me, if not, not.
I think there is something in most Americans except the cynical
emotion-dead who wish he would do all or most of the above, or
*something* to make a fight of it. One President destroyed
himself because of his own personality; to see another do the
same brings no pleasure.
The straight-out vote-counting reasons for considering
withdrawal stare at him. Few Democrats believe he will
suddenly become a doer, thinker, orator and fighter. As they
become committed to Governor Clinton, it will become harder for
Mr. Bush to convince them. No Democrats, no Bush re-election.
Meanwhile more Republicans see him as a loser, and say so. The
The longer their fear lives, the more likely it fulfills itself.
William Bennett, the conservative Republican who served Mr.
Bush as drug czar, asked two devastating questions about the
President on the David Brinkley program.
Does Mr. Bush really want the job? If so, what does he plan to
do with it?
The strongest reason for Mr. Bush not to run, and the hardest
to face, is that he has not made the most of his chances; that
is the least Presidents get elected to do.
Abroad, he fought a war, threw away victory, guaranteeing more
war -- already being fought by the Iraqi resistance. He
misjudged what was going on in the Soviet Union, the Baltics,
the Mideast, China, Haiti.
At home, his first term has sunk the country in depression --
depression of the soul -- not sure which will come first, the
factory closing slip or the next urban riot.
Perhaps Mr. Bush will find it in himself to recover the
admiration of his countrymen. He can do that by saying he had
his opportunity, did what he could, but that all told, it would
be better to give a fresh Republican team the chance to lead.
Any new Republican ticket would have one tough race, with so
little time left. But it would be interesting to find out how
many Republican delegates, guaranteed anonymity, think Bush-Quayle
has a better chance than a ticket of Jack Kemp and, say, Elizabeth
Dole or Jeane Kirkpatrick.
A hard thing for Mr. Bush to do -- but in truth others have faced
their mirrors and decided to walk away without being fired and with
respect from their peers, and themselves.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank