Archive for Sunday, November 5, 2000

Charting Bush, Gore differences

November 5, 2000


— The case for electing George W. Bush begins with a mundane matter: A president fills several thousand policy-shaping positions in the executive branch. The two parties have very different talent pools from which the next administration will be staffed.

The Democratic pool swarms with people who share Al Gore's bossiness, his regulatory itch and his hubristic belief that clever people like them can wield government as creatively as Rodin did his chisel. The Republican pool is disposed to regard government as a blunt instrument. Which is to say, a Gore administration would have the mentality of Washington's northwest quadrant, a Bush administration would have a West Texas attitude.

Congress' drunken sailor approach to the surplus makes the political case for Bush's tax cut: leave the money in Washington, it will disappear like water into sand. The economic case for the cut is that Bush's advisers, who fortunately include some people capable of bearish thoughts, think the economy may need energizing sooner than many people think.

Bush would work at both ends of the problem to fix the disjunction between the military's declining strength and its increasing tempo of operations. He favors ballistic missile defense. Gore's "support" for this is as meretricious as his "opposition" to partial-birth abortion: He supports only such ineffective missile defenses as his fetish, the 1972 ABM treaty, permits, and the only "restriction" he would put on late-term abortions would restrict nothing.

Bush, unlike Gore, will provide a prescription drug entitlement without the lethal folly of price controls which, by crippling the creativity of the pharmaceutical industry, would prevent the prevention of much suffering and death. The political class, egged on by media eager to restrict rival speech, favors, under the rubric of "campaign finance reform," government regulation of the permissible amount of political advocacy. Bush's Supreme Court nominees would block any such evisceration of the First Amendment.

Since the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, Republican presidents have filled 10 of the 12 Supreme Court vacancies, yet the court remains narrowly divided, philosophically. If the next president, who may make three, even four nominations, is Gore, the court will adopt a permissive stance toward speech-rationing limits on campaign contributing and spending. A Gore court will be permissive about Congress' usurpation of states' prerogatives, and hence will end the court's modest attempts to revitalize federalism. A Gore court will be unpermissive regarding state attempts to slow the slide into infanticide with late-term abortions, and unpermissive regarding the constitutionality of school choice programs involving religious schools.

America's most glaring domestic inequity is the life-blighting failure of many inner city public schools to serve poor mostly minority children. Gore, held on a short leash by the public education lobby, opposes empowering the disadvantaged to make the sort of choices he made in providing some private schooling for his own children. Another leash will be jerked by the public employees unions that represent contemporary government's therapeutic culture the social workers who want to gut the 1996 welfare reform.

Critics, quoting Churchill's description of an adversary, say Bush is a modest man with much to be modest about, and that he lacks complexity. But modesty is a political virtue, and is especially desirable in the next president, who will replace the egomaniacal vulgarian whose picture adorns Esquire's current cover. And a low complexity quotient provides a pleasing contrast to Gore's multiple personality disorder.

For the official World Series magazine, Gore and Bush provided written answers to some questions pertaining to baseball, including "What do you think of domed stadiums?" Gore's complete answer was:

"The design and construction of domed stadiums in Seattle (the Kingdome was the first free-standing cement dome ever built), Houston (the Astrodome was the first stadium to use Astroturf) and Minnesota (the Metrodome is the only stadium in the U.S. whose roof is suspended without beams or rods it's supported by air pressure), for example, have been feats of architectural and engineering excellence. But the real measure of any stadium, domed or otherwise, is how much fun you have inside."

Bush's complete answer was: "I like to go to baseball games outdoors."

Let's vote.

George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

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