WITH ENEMIES LIKE THAT... | 2000-06-24

I cannot imagine a Bush running without Reagan beating a grownup in a presidential election, but if it can be done, it will be done by his enemies. The media has some fascinating ideas about Bush's weak points. They are saying that Bush will be unpopular because Texas carries out the death penalty. Most people support the death penalty. Media is jumping on Bush for opposing gun control. Fighting gun control is an issue which unites the Republican Party's conservative base like no other.

On a CNN debate, Mr. Fonda's "political expert," Bill Schneider, was charmed by a new label. He called the Bush campaign, "The Bob Jones Redemption Tour." It turned out that the person who coined that phrase happened to be the very Democrat who was on that same program.

With the title, "Bob Jones Redemption Tour," Schneider is saying that neither his friends nor his master would vote for the conservative image Bush projected in the South Carolina primary. Bush must move to that magic "middle of the road," where his father and Dole were, to be a winner like they were.

But the result of this "extremist" image that the media has put on Bush has been a steady rise of Bush in the polls. This doesn't surprise me. "Middle of the roaders" never win presidential elections on the Republican ticket. The elder Bush ran as Reagan's heir in 1988 and won. He ran as a moderate in 1992 and lost, as did Dole in 1996.

And, as I keep pointing out, in the real world, people actually elected to the Senate or to Congress have voting records that are clearly liberal or clearly conservative. "Middle of the road" is simply something the Schneiders of the world use to pull Republicans left. As a strategy, it doesn't work in real elections.

So why are Bush's enemies helping him so much?

The media have been using this "middle of the road" nonsense for a long time to pull Republicans to the left, but they never BELIEVED it. The problem is that if a whole group of people keep saying something over and over, many of them are going to begin to believe it. This seems to have happened to the media. They are portraying the son of one of history's great political wimps as just the opposite, an extremist in favor of capital punishment and against gun control. As a direct result, Bush is rising in the polls.

But many in the media have actually swallowed their own "middle of the road" nonsense. They actually believe that this sort of "pro-gun, pro-death penalty" labeling will hurt Bush.

With enemies like that, he doesn't need many friends to get elected.