George Bush at the Republican National Convention had an easy act to follow. Preceding him was the recast-again Dan Quayle, whose volcanically delivered fibs and fantasies, prompted a usually sympathetic observer, Tom Shales, of the Washington Post, to write: “His eyes were popping like a wolf’s in an old Tex Avery cartoon. A person watching might have come to the conclusion that this guy’s door is hanging by one hinge.” Yet Mr. Bush managed to outdo his Vice-President in escaping responsibility for the past twelve years of the Reagan-Bush government. His speech contained three strategies: (1) blame Congress for the failures and inactions of the past dozen years; (2) portray Clinton as untrustworthy, inexperienced and an old-line “tax and spend” Democrat; and (3) beat the drums of America #1 to contrast Clinton’s alleged tearing down the country with his criticisms of Washington.
Blaming Congress for the waste, fraud and abuse of the giant Executive branch of government, ruled by a President with awesome veto powers, media powers and staffing power — not to mention preparation of the budget, many Congressional allies, the role of Commander in Chief and the almost unfettered right to spend, impound or rejuggle monies or not enforce laws without effective judicial challenge — is pure flimflam.
Basically, Bush has been satisfied with the status quo. He has had neither an energetic domestic program nor the vision to inspire it. Being satisfied with the status quo has meant breaking the veto record for Presidents. In three and one half years, he has vetoed 32 bills. These include campaign finance reform, motor voter easier registration, and an unpaid parental leave bill for medical family emergencies.
President NO has used his White House roadblock for more than destroying much good legislation for the American people. The very frequency of his vetos have intimidated even some progressive Democrats from pushing for needed reforms. For example, Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) told me “what’s the use, Bush will veto everything,” when I urged him to initiate stronger enforcement measures in the giant S & L bailout bills.
President Bush has done whatever he wanted to do. In years past, Congress passed numerous health and safety laws covering meat & poultry inspection, drinking water, automobiles, pesticides and the workplace. Like Reagan, Mr. Bush simply decided not to enforce them.
His repeated blame on Congress for the deficit is also absurd. Congress did not stop him from submitting a balanced budget every year. It was he who presented Congress with bulky budgets containing history’s largest deficits every year of his first term. Yet he has the gall to tell the people from Houston that “Government is too big and spends too much.”
He goes after Congress for not passing another version of the federal criminal laws. Well, Congress has not stopped him from enforcing the existing criminal laws against business crimes. But Bush has chosen to be soft on such crime, taking the federal cops off the banking, nuclear, pollution and other beats. Moreover, he has demanded that Congress weaken these laws.
Lastly, he announces another one year holiday from law and order activity for misbehaving business that he euphemistically calls a “freeze on unnecessary federal regulation” and does so without any Congressional authorization. There he goes again, a law unto himself.
Then, he launches into a fierce attack on trial lawyers -the only group of Americans he blasted. He means, of course, trial lawyers for injured victims against wrongdoers including his allies in the corporate world. Bush’s statements on this subject reflect his chronic inability to have any sympathy with the right of wrongfully injured Americans to have their day in court and a right to trial by jury. Talk about running America down. The American Revolution was fought, in part, over King George III’s attempt to take away the colonists’ right of trial by jury. This grievance was number two on the complaint list sent to the King.
Right after the Bush speech, a Korean-American cab driver, whom I hailed, took the address apart piece by piece. He concluded by saying that Clinton’s response to Bush’s attacks will reveal what kind of candidate Clinton really turns out to be. Will Clinton stand against the White House gridlock and lawlessness or will he cower, preferring not to appear to be defending his Party’s legislators in an unpopular Congress?
Will Clinton take up Bush’s assault against Congressional PACs and perks and challenge the President to repeal the Pay Grab he sent to Congress and to sign, not veto, the next campaign finance reform bill that curbs PACs?
And will Clinton defend law and order against corporate crime, fraud and abuse and protect our civil justice system that gives people a fighting chance to hold responsible the perpetrators who have harmed them.
If not, maybe George Wallace was right when he said: ask any cab driver? There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties?