Stupor Tuesday
Jude Wanniski
March 11, 1992


It's hard to believe, but it looks like Bill Clinton might be the Democratic nominee after all. And given the flaccid campaign being waged by President Bush, it is no longer inconceivable that "Slick Willie" will win in November. That's the judgement of the Wednesday morning political analysts. They will be right about the Democratic nomination if Paul Tsongas does not immediately get back on the pro-growth campaign track that won for him in New Hampshire. They will be right about November if the President's handlers think they can beat Clinton by telling the voters about his character flaws, which is how Tsongas became unhinged in Florida. Clinton won by hammering the austerity side of Tsongas. He scared the seniors on Social Security, he scared blacks and working class whites with class warfare demagoguery, and at the same time flashed JFK upbeat charisma. Tsongas, who had gotten as far as he has by resisting the advice of political handlers, was talked into answering back. The only message that came through was: a) "I too can counterpunch," and b) "Bill Clinton is a pander bear." When Clinton pounded on Tsongas for favoring a capital gains tax cut, which is not only at the heart of Tsongas' growth message, but also should play well with senior Floridians, Tsongas retreated into a sulk. If this continues into next week's Illinois and Michigan primaries, Tsongas will be finished. His showings in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Delaware suggest he could regain his footing. As the Third Man, Jerry Brown may do well enough in the Midwest and West to prevent Clinton from winning on the first ballot. As Clinton's robotic campaign is the antithesis of Brown's, one scenario would be to have the Brown delegates going to Tsongas on some subsequent ballot.

Clinton is so absolutely, thoroughly unprincipled that it makes it easier for him to do or say anything it takes to win. Those of his supporters who have been touting him for years as a genuine Southern pro-business moderate are running around assuring his pro-business, moderate supporters that his recent class-warfare tactics are only meant for the primaries. Please note Clinton has been waving around The New York Times article we denounced as shameful in its distortions last week, on how the Reagan years only benefitted the richest of the rich. Once nominated, Clinton will of course go after President Bush for being so unprincipled as to break his "No New Taxes" pledge. His handlers are publicly throwing out the idea that Clinton will name Tsongas his running mate. We can be sure they are privately telling others of different running mates. His actual running mate will be picked by the same Democratic establishment that selected Walter Mondale for Jimmy Carter in 1976. Someone who will not make trouble and will help spread the gravy.

The thought of Clinton as President makes us think warm and cuddly thoughts about George Bush. The President and his campaign team, though, are not leaving the impression they will be any better handling Clinton than they have been in handling Pat Buchanan. They are eager to have Buchanan quit his Quixotic campaign and announce his support for the President. At the same time they are defending Republican National Committee Chairman Rich Bond, who Sunday referred to Pat as a "race-baiter." Dumb! Buchanan insists he will hang in there until the California primary in June. If he does, and experiments with his message, he might do better than he has thus far as a Nixonian. Instead of demanding the resignation of Rich Bond, he should be denouncing the President's economic team, which would get him more votes. The White House is thrilled to pieces today that Buchanan did not do better than he did, but they must be uncomfortable with polls indicating the President would be defeated by either Clinton or Tsongas at the moment.