WORLD

BUSH COUNTRY

THE REPUBLICANS RETAIN THE WHITE HOUSE BUT FACE A DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY IN THE U.S. CONGRESS

MARCI McDONALD November 21 1988
WORLD

BUSH COUNTRY

THE REPUBLICANS RETAIN THE WHITE HOUSE BUT FACE A DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY IN THE U.S. CONGRESS

MARCI McDONALD November 21 1988

BUSH COUNTRY

WORLD

THE REPUBLICANS RETAIN THE WHITE HOUSE BUT FACE A DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY IN THE U.S. CONGRESS

For more than 10 years, he had doggedly pursued his dream, enduring countless compromises, losses and public humiliations. But when victory finally came to him last week—electing him the 41st president of the United States—George Herbert Walker Bush was surprisingly subdued. On the night before his 54-to-46-per-cent triumph over Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, he had scarcely slept in his Houston hotel suite. And so grave was the tone of his gracious and conciliatory acceptance speech that, the next morning at his first news conference as president-elect, Bush confessed that he had felt torn by mixed emotions—“somewhere between total exhilaration and recognition that the challenge ahead is going to be awesome.”

In fact, a measure of just how awesome that challenge may be was becoming apparent even as Bush spoke. Despite his attempt to reassure U.S. allies with the swift appointment of his longtime confidant and campaign chairman, James Baker, as secretary of state, the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted more than 47 points by late last week, and the U.S. dollar plunged to a 10-month low against the Japanese yen. Those drops reflected the financial markets’ concern that Bush has emerged from the vapid and vituperative 20-month campaign without a clear blueprint to tackle the unprecedented problems now facing the country—a national debt that will total $3.2 trillion by the time he takes office Jan. 20, and a trade imbalance expected to reach $160 billion. As Bush sought to heal the wounds still festering from the race, some commentators observed that, having vanquished Dukakis, he now faces a more formidable foe: grim reality. Said Myer Rashish, former undersecretary of state for economic affairs: “If George Bush isn’t mildly

intimidated by being president of the United States, he’s not sane.”

Complicating Bush’s task is the fact that he will preside over a government bitterly divided. Despite his substantial 40-state sweep— giving him 426 Electoral College votes corn-

pared with Dukakis’s 112 in 10 states and the District of Columbia—voters strictly curbed his power by strengthening Democratic control of Congress. Picking up five more seats in the House of Representatives and another in the Senate, the Democrats will convene for the 101st congressional session next January in a mood made all the more combative by the campaign’s meanspiritedness. That climate could bog down Bush’s presidency in four years of conflict and stalemate, hampering his pledges to take action against such problems as acid rain (page 37).

Bush also faced hurdles from his own party’s

restive right wing, which regards him—and Baker—as suspect moderates. And even on election night his former Republican rival, Senate minority leader Robert Dole, charged that Bush had done little to help his party’s congressional candidates. Said Dole: “It’s go-

ing to be tougher because the bottom line in this town is how many votes you have.” In the past, Bush has often been criticized for avoiding decisions, preferring to straddle conflicting views. But his ability to compromise may prove vital if he is to win co-operation from congressional Democrats eager to embarrass him over his campaign slogan, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Said Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry: “He has to mouth the right things when we read his lips. It’s going to take a good relationship with God and the fairy godmother to pull those things off.”

Dukakis, meanwhile, seemed as relieved by

his defeat as Bush had been sobered by his victory. On the morning after he had conceded his loss in a congratulatory phone call to Bush, aides found the Massachusetts governor back in the kitchen of his modest semidetatched house in the Boston suburb of Brookline, busily polishing his shoes before setting off for his desk at the statehouse. But in a news conference later that day, Dukakis said that his loss did not carry the same sting as his stunning 1978 defeat in the Democratic gubernatorial primaries. In fact, some longtime friends attributed his equanimity to Dukakis’s growing realization during the campaign that he lacked what commentators termed the necessary “fire in the belly” to fight his way to the White House. Even as a student at Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College he had said that his ultimate ambition was to be a governor.

But others pointed out that Dukakis’s defeat was also mitigated by the fact that he had fared better at the polls than Walter Mondale in 1984, who won only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. And by winning Washington and Oregon, he became the first Democrat to carry a West Coast state since 1968, thereby penetrating the so-called Republican lock on tîie region. Dukakis also partially succeeded in one of his key strategic goals: luring half of those Democrats who had voted for Reagan in the last two elections back to the party. “I gave it my best shot,” he said.

But Dukakis conceded that he should have responded earlier to Bush’s negative television commercials attacking his prison furlough program, his defence stands and his tardiness in

cleaning up Boston’s polluted harbor. A CBS News-Atete York Times exit poll showed that crime was the issue that motivated 71 per cent of those voting for Bush, despite the fact that it falls largely under state and local jurisdiction. “Look,” said Dukakis, “there’s no question that the negative campaigning hurt us.” The governor voiced concern that the very success of the attacks would mean more mudslinging in future campaigns—a verdict with which commentators unanimously agreed. This year’s campaign, Dukakis warned, “may well set a standard we live to regret.”

But even before Dukakis offered his own public post-mortem of the election, other Democrats took to the airwaves to lambaste him for his failures. Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young blamed his advisers for an inept advertising campaign. Not only did they not know his native South, said Young, “they did not know the Midwest, they did not know the people.” Other critics expressed dismay at Dukakis’s televised election-eve appeal to the nation. At a time when his suddenly energized campaign was registering gains in the polls, he chose to devote a large portion of his 30-minute commercial to ruminating over his campaign’s failures. But most disgruntled Democrats agreed that Dukakis’s principal blunder was in taking too long to adopt a single coherent campaign message—“I’m on your side”—that played on the traditional populist chords of economic inequity and class resentment.

But critics—even within Dukakis’s own Boston staff—also indicted the governor’s flaws of character, including his stubborn refusal to listen to advice. I And some party veterans called ^ for reform of the process that

1 produced their candidate. Said = Robert Borosage of Washingu ton’s liberal Institute for Policy

2 Studies: “He presented himself ¿ for what he was—a technocrat,

a process liberal, an unexciting Brookline reformer who is frightened by unions and working people and blacks. The trouble is, that doesn’t move many voters.” Borosage and other supporters of Jesse Jackson are urging the party to return to its roots as a voice for the economically disadvantaged. But pitted against them are conservative southern Democrats led by Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, who declared that “the goal is to get the Democratic party back in the middle of the spectrum—that’s where the voters are.”

Borosage argues that Dukakis capitulated to those forces in his campaign—rebuffing Jackson and the party’s loyal core of black voters— and the strategy failed to win him a single southern state. Instead, although blacks sup-

World Notes

DISASTER IN CHINA

China’s worst earthquake in over a decade hit the province of Yunnan. The earthquake—which registered 7.6 on the Richter scale—and nearly 200 aftershocks killed more than 900 people devastated southern villages in tainous region near Burma.

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DISTORTING THE PAST The president of the West German parliament, Philipp Jenninger, resigned one day after he called the early years of the Nazis’ Third Reich a “triumphant procession” and said that Hitler had been “chosen by Providence” to “lead the Germans to glorious times.” Jenninger said that the speech to parliament—on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of terror that signalled the start of the Holocaust—was intended to show the allure of nazism. But about 50 legislators stormed out of the session, and Jewish groups condemned him for his insensitivity.

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PALESTINIAN PROTESTS

Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip staged a general strike to mark the start of the 12th month of their intifadeh, or uprising. Since last December, 318 Palestinians and 11 Jews have died in the anti-Israeli violence.

A HAITIAN'S DEMISE

Haitian police are investigating the death of retired colonel Jean-Claude Paul, 49, who was linked with the former Duvalier dictatorship. Paul died one hour after eating soup that may have been poisoned.

SEEKING RETRIBUTION

At a parliamentary hearing broadcast on

dong, of extortion and torture of political opponents during the eight-year rule of President Chun Doo Hwan. Mass protests continued by radical students demanding Chun’s arrest and execution.

A PRISONER EXCHANGE

At UN peace talks in Geneva, Iran ; agreed to start exchanging wounded prisoners of war on '

TOURIST ALERT

Protest strikes by a Marxist group from the Sinhalese ethnic majority prompted the Sri Lankan government to advise some 9,000 tourists to leave the country. The People’s Liberation Front was demanding the resignation of President Junius Jayewardene because of his peace efforts with the ethnic Tamil minority.

ported Dukakis over Bush by a 9-to-l margin, far fewer of them voted in key northern states than four years ago. In Illinois, where Dukakis lost by nearly 118,000 votes, exit polls reported that voter turnout dropped by about seven per cent—and by as much as 10 per cent in Chicago’s largely black Cook County. Part of the decline was in line with an overall mood of apathy and disgust at the campaign: only an estimated 48 per cent of the nation’s 183 million registered voters cast their ballots, down by five percentage points from 1984. Meanwhile, as Jackson regrouped for his third presidential bid in 1992, many Democrats predicted a bitter battle for the soul of the party— one that could become all the more ugly if the debate splits along racial lines.

But one Democrat to emerge with increased clout from the fray was Dukakis’s running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, who easily recaptured his Texas Senate seat.

The conservative Bentsen failed to win Dukakis the southern white vote or even to carry his own state’s 29 Electoral College votes—his chief missions when he was named to the ticket. But after starting the campaign as a stiff and somewhat bland speaker, the patrician 67year-old politician evolved into a populist firebrand on the stump, who made so many speeches in the final week of the campaign that he spent election night almost silenced by laryngitis. He proved such an unexpected hit on college campuses that one local newspaper described him as a “minor heartthrob,” and polls showed that he had the highest personal ratings of the four figures on the presidential tickets. That popularity is expected to increase Bentsen’s already considerable influence as chairman of the Senate finance committee, where he has committed himself to fighting one of Bush’s chief campaign planks: a reduction in the capital gains tax.

In contrast, vice-president-elect Daniel Quayle clearly remained an embarrassment to many Republicans, even in their hour of victory. After avoiding any mention of him during the final weeks of the campaign, Bush still seemed defensive when he spoke of Quayle at a Washington welcoming ceremony the morning after the election. Addressing wildly cheering crowds at Andrews Air Force Base, Bush assured them: “He’s going to be one of the great vice-presidents. You watch him.” But aides have advised Quayle to keep a low profile during his first months in office, an obscurity that he should have no trouble in maintaining: the key advisers who had groomed him for the campaign have already left his service.

In fact, Bush’s swift move to establish Baker as the influential figure of his administration seemed designed to dispel doubts about his judgment after his appointment of Quayle. As Bush’s key political strategist since the two were next-door neighbors three decades ago in Houston, the millionaire lawyer shares such a rapport with the president-elect that the two regularly communicated at cabinet meetings merely by exchanged glances or raised eyebrows. So great is Baker’s influence that James David Barber of Duke University speculated on whether a Bush administration would really mean a “President Jim Baker” behind the scenes. But his appointment was hailed by U.S. allies in Europe, who ha\ ä praised his leading role in controlling international exchange rates over the past two years.

Bush himself is expected to devote much of his attention to foreign policy—his first love and the reason that 38 per cent of Bush’s voters said that they chose him. But this week, when Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher calls on him in Washington, she will reportedly offer him her own thoughts on the subject, including her desire for a full-scale summit of NATO leaders in London next June to determine a coherent strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union. Last week, Bush said that he was ready for a summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, provided it promised substance.

But the shape of a Bush administration remains hazy—aside from replacing Reagan’s jar of jelly beans on the cabinet table with bowls of his favorite—pork rinds. Bush has vowed to carry on Reagan’s legacy. And about 84 per cent of his support came from those who

approved of Reagan’s performance—the single greatest factor behind his win. At the same time, some analysts predict that the buttons his supporters were sporting on election night— “We are the change”—may prove prophetic. Bush has promised to “reinvigorate” the government with new faces. And as résumés poured into his transition office to fill the 8,000 political patronage jobs listed in the government’s official “plum book,” conservatives jostled to win a majority of them. Still, most observers say that, unlike the Reagan administration, Bush’s White House will harbor few right-wing ideologues. Said Virginia conservative direct-mail tycoon Richard Viguerie: “It will be a big-business, Establishment, countryclub type of administration, and their main concern will be to make it safe for multinational corporations to make a profit around the world.” Conservatives, as well as moderates, say that Bush’s chief test will come when he is faced with making his first Supreme Court appointment. With Justice Harry Blackmun turning 80 last week—the third sitting member of the nine-man high court to reach that age over the past two years—the opportunity to exert lasting influence over the country’s judicial system may well come soon. Bush has declared that he has no ideological litmus test for his selection and that he would appoint a “moderate with conservative views.”

Bush’s Detroit-based pollster, Robert Teeter—who, along with vice-presidential chief of staff Craig Fuller, will _ oversee Bush’s 73-day transi8 tion—says that Bush will be a more activist president than Reagan. But after the success of his controlled campaign, analyst Jerry Hagstrom, author of Beyond Reagan: The New Landscape of American Politics, predicts that Bush may remain inaccessible to unscripted moments with the press and public because of his lack of performing instincts and history of verbal misadventures. “If they let Bush be Bush,” said Hagstrom, “the potential for him making a faux pas is much greater.”

That potential has encouraged many humorists, who are looking to Bush for raw material for their trade. Said Washington syndicated columnist Art Buchwald: “I had my worries about Mike Dukakis becoming president and having to write about him for four years.” Such lighthearted assessments may even brighten Bush as he returns from a Florida holiday this week to contemplate the sobering prospect of seeing his dreams come true—and leading his nation into an uncertain new decade.

MARCI McDONALD in Washington