For example: Early in Bill Clinton's term, the Army's most highly decorated active-duty general, a Vietnam hero who almost died from his wounds, was in the White House on business. As he left, he nodded to a woman and said "Good day." The woman in the White House turned to the general and said "I don't speak to the military."
(The general, by the way, was Barry McCaffrey, the very same "four-star general" that Mr. Clinton regularly brags on because, three years later, he appointed him drug czar.)
Never grew up
During Sunday's candidate debate, Jim Lehrer asked Senator Dole what he had in mind when he stated at the Republican convention that " . . . within the Clinton administration [there is] a corps of the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered." Mr. Dole lamely said he meant that a lot of people came to Washington without experience and were very liberal.
Why is he afraid to get tough? Politics is a contact sport, and if Mr. Dole is spooked by that silliness, he's in the wrong business. It's a problem that afflicts the whole Republican Party. Maligned at their 1992 Houston convention as right-wing zealots on the issue of family values, the GOP has backed off from using the social issues. And so, for one example, we hear nothing about gays in the military, a clear issue of substance facing the commander-in-chief.
The problem with liberalism
That links to a second failure. Yes, Mr. Dole attacked the president and the Democrats as "liberals." But alas, he harped exclusively on the idea that the problem with liberalism is high taxes. Too many Republicans think everything has to do with money and taxes.
But that's not the biggest problem with modern liberalism. It's not a disaster if freely elected people choose to buy certain services collectively, like pensions or health care for the elderly. It is a very serious problem when modern liberalism has been apologizing for out-of-wedlock birth, criminality, dumbed-down politically correct education and quotas by race, gender and ethnicity.
Bob Dole will have to do better and be tougher.
Ben Wattenberg is a syndicated columnist and the host of the weekly public television program, "Think Tank."
Pub Date: 10/10/96