November 7, 1991
The Hon. Mario Cuomo
Governor of New York
Albany, N.Y. 12224
I watched your hour-long call-in program last night and then called a few of my Republican friends in Washington to tell them you were soon going to announce your candidacy. Once you made the observation that the problems of the cities and states were not caused in the cities or states by Republican or Democratic mayors or governors, but was a national problem, I concluded you were not going to sit helplessly in Albany and watch our country go down the drain.
The Republican leaders I spoke to last night asked me if I thought your candidacy would make a positive contribution. I said I have always thought so, which is why I was disappointed when you did not run in 1988, although I now don't know for sure if I would have been rooting for you part of the way or all of the way. The American people will know who in the field of possibilities will make the best President. What the people need are options. As I've argued with you before, you should not have to confront that question yourself, except insofar as you are a citizen and you must be able to sense that when you enter the ballot box next November, you will vote for yourself. As long as you can imagine that happening, you owe it to your fellow citizens to offer them that option. Democracy cannot work if those who know they can be better leaders than those already in the field choose to sit out elections.
In the same way, I am now trying to persuade at least one serious Republican political leader to think about entering the contest for the nomination, by challenging George Bush. The Republican electorate now needs an option to the President, who can only revive if he feels sufficiently challenged to make necessary personnel changes in his Cabinet, most especially at Treasury. The chance of the President firing Nick Brady, his best friend in government, cuts against everything we know about George Bush. He can't win re-election with Brady as his finance minister, any more than it was possible for Hoover to win in '32 with Ogden Mills, the Treasury Secretary who presided over the '31-'32 tax increases that turned recession into depression. (Andrew Mellon was Treasury Secretary in 1929-30, a holdover from Harding and Coolidge. Mills was the Deputy, as Hoover did not like Mellon and listened to him no more than Bush has to Jack Kemp, the only growth-oriented holdover from the Reagan years.)
President Bush was the best man to preside over the dissolution of the Soviet empire. Kemp was unprepared for that role, which is the chief reason I think he got nowhere in the GOP primaries of 1988 -- running against Gorbachev. With foreign policy now a slight consideration in the demands of the national electorate, the probability is extremely high the voters will turn to a governor in 1992. Someone outside the Beltway, with administrative skills built around domestic, economic concerns. The only seasoned governors who fit that need, at least by my estimate, are you and Jerry Brown on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, the only two governors I know who could make it work are Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin and William Weld of Massachusetts, although neither are seasoned enough at this point. In the Congress, the only two men I think could seriously contest you are Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi or Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota, i.e., I'd vote for either of them over you at this point if they were running, but I may have more confidence in them than they have in themselves.
What the country needs is implied in the term "New Deal." The New Deal of FDR, though, had its intellectual roots in the state corporatism of Mussolini's experiment in Italy. Italy in 1932, after all, was the only major nation still seemingly thriving amidst the wreckage of the Depression. The "Big Government" approach, termed "fascism" in 1919, as Mussolini bolted the socialist cause in favor of state capitalism, underpinned the New Deal's "national industrial planning," the NRA and all the other alphabet agencies that grew into what we now call "The Beltway."
The new deal we need now might be called "The New Capitalism," a capitalism that tends to the have nots rather than the haves. Jesse Jackson says "Capitalism without capital is just an ism." Of course. For capitalism to succeed there has to be capital; the willingness of those who have, to invest in those who don't; a mixture of private and public investment. Your presentation last night, the several answers to the questions posed to you, easily fit into the general ballpark of this idea. You understand the essence of the supply model and I think you get the drift of my arguments about the crisis in entrepreneurial capitalism. Yes we need public works. Lots and lots of public works. But they can only be financed with a great outburst of private economic enterprise.
You told Maureen Dowd of The New York Times the other day that you wish making up your mind was as easy as it was for St. Paul, who got hit in the tush with a lightning bolt, as you put it. You are clearly on the right road to conversion, but you are not going to get hit with the persuasive lightning bolt of insight unless you get in the middle of the road, where it can get a clear shot at your tush. I've been pleased and encouraged to have these long conversations and communications with you through your aides. At least I can say that in the process I converted Brad Johnson, if not Vince Tese or Lee Smith. Third-party evangelism is not as effective as one on one, however. When you are ready for instructions, just let me know, and I will show up with my Baltimore supply-side catechism.
In any event, I was very happy to watch your presentation last night. I actually tried to call in with a question, but the lines were clogged, perhaps by the Forces of Darkness.
Sincerely, as always,
cc: Clients of Polyconomics, Inc.