The Washington Times
A while back, a well-placed acquaintance of mine asked me about my thoughts on how President Bush should run for re-election and specifically, could I draft and send him a memo offering a campaign theme for Mr. Bush in 2004. I was flattered, of course. But I never wrote the memo.
True, like most people who write on op-ed pages, I have a dog in the fight. My 2004 sympathies are with Mr. Bush. But the purpose of this column, when the subject is domestic politics, is not advocacy but analysis. I write about politics. I couldn’t have sent in a private memo, no matter what became of it, and still maintain an adequate degree of analytical detachment when writing about the campaign.
But there is nothing at all inappropriate in thinking about how Mr. Bush [or, of course, his opponent] might best run in 2004, provided one does so in public. So here’s a memo for you:
To Karl Rove [and everybody else], From TL, Re Bush 2004.
As you know, the key to the 2004 election is a galvanized base combined with an appeal to centrist voters. For purposes of argument, we will assume an economy and a security environment [Iraq, Afghanistan, homeland] in which GWB remains credible on leadership grounds. [Things may or may not be going as well as hoped, but voters will see GWB as working hard for improvement.]
To the extent that Democrats have succeeded in motivating their voter base with a harsh anti-GWB message, the Republican base will likely be motivated in defense of GWB. This is not, however, enough.
GWB needs a highly motivated conservative/Christian evangelical base. And, he needs to achieve this motivation in a manner that will not undermine his appeal to voters who are not conservative on social issues.
The temptation is to think of two separate messages or two sets of emphases, depending on the situation. This would be counterproductive; GWB’s integrity would be undercut, which would feed the Democratic accusation that he is deceitful. And it is unnecessary. The objective is to lay down a theme for the campaign that will resonate with both conservatives and moderates.
The Democratic Party base is almost entirely secular in character. GWB is understood to be a religious man. Those who have not ruled out voting for GWB [the Democratic base] but who are not themselves as intense in their religiosity as the evangelical base have already discounted for GWB’s religion, at least to some degree. They either vaguely approve or don’t mind. Many Democrats think GWB is “too” religious but think saying so is dangerous. Democrats raise this matter only indirectly by talking about social issues – issues on which the “far right” has captured the GOP.
The field is open to GWB to talk about secular, non-“far right” issues through a prism of faith. This refraction of secular issues will attract the GOP conservative/Christian evangelical base without antagonizing moderates by appearing to justify the “far right capture” charge. Consider, then, GWB’s “Five Faiths.”
Faith in self. We know that America must be a land of opportunity for all. No child can be left behind with the self-defeating view that future promises only failure. We cannot be satisfied until all Americans believe in themselves and their future.
Faith in family. We know the challenge parents face when their children are young and their own parents are growing older. But we also know what an irreplaceable resource and comfort family is. The family is a where we learn to love.
Faith in country. We know that America is a great country because it is a good country, not only to its own citizens but also to others. The American government does its best to ensure that all Americans can hold their heads high in pride at the force their country has been for the advancement of decency at home and around the world.
Faith in people. We know that when the people have the power to decide and fair rules to play by, they choose leaders wisely. When the people have no such power, their rulers think mainly of themselves. That is why America, which enjoys the blessings of democracy, seeks to promote democracy around the world.
Faith in God. In church or synagogue or mosque, scores of millions of Americans look for personal guidance from a Higher Power watching over all of us. We know that when we are needful, God is there, and when our greatest need is to express our humble gratitude for all that we enjoy, God is there. We know that when we resolve to live with one another in peace and freedom, we are obeying God’s command.
Here, where GWB goes, his Democratic opponent cannot follow.
This is not [at present] an election about policy. It’s about what you believe in. Faith is GWB’s strength.