WINNER BY A LANDSLIDE in the Super Tuesday Republican primaries, Senator Bob Dole is now in a position to ignore Steve Forbes as an irrelevancy and to deal with Pat Buchanan as an irritant who has no loyalty to a party that has no obligations to him. "I'm not prepared to negotiate anything with either one of them." Mr. Dole growled as the latest returns came in. "If they want to beat Bill Clinton or if they want to be spoilers, they can make their choice."
These remarks were vintage Dole rough, blunt, to the point. They are a horror to so-called political strategists who want the candidate to reach out to his tormentors and bring them into a nice big happy tent of GOP unity.
Balderdash. The Republican strategy should be to "let Dole be Dole." Among those who know him best his colleagues in the U.S. Senate that is enough to engender respect. He has an authenticity that stands in favorable contrast to the artifice of the essential Clinton. The White House is winnable for the Kansas senator, provided he remains true to himself.
What this means in reference to the flat-tax Forbes legacy is for Mr. Dole to steer clear of the supply-side theories that wrecked the economic record of the Reagan era. Senate majority leader then as now, it was Mr. Dole's role to bring the Reagan agenda back to fiscal reality a role he fulfilled despite taunts that he was acting as a tax collector for the welfare state.
As for Mr. Buchanan's stock in trade a no-exceptions constitutional ban on abortion and Fortress America protectionism these too are issues best handled by the instinctive Bob Dole. He abhors abortion, as who does not, but has already made it clear he would not rule out a pro-choice vice presidential running mate (Colin Powell? Christy Whitman?). And as for Mr. Buchanan's assaults on free trade, he has only to point out how much the one-time Reagan speechwriter deviates from the free-markets philosophy of his supposed hero.
Mr. Forbes and Mr. Buchanan have needled Mr. Dole as an "insider" and a "legislative engineer." Yet it is in precisely that role that Mr. Dole can run as the first Senate majority leader in history to be nominated for the presidency.
Now dwarfing House Speaker Newt Gingrich, yesteryear's juggernaut, he can shape a GOP legislative agenda that is sufficiently reasonable to confront Mr. Clinton with tough choices: either veto one bill after another, thus opening himself to barbs as a "do-nothing president," or allow Republican-shaped bills to pass as Bob Dole proclaims himself "a doer, not a talker." It should be quite a contest.
Pub Date: 3/14/96