Notes on Campaign '96 VI
Jude Wanniski
October 24, 1996


PEROT: When Bob Dole chose Kemp as his running mate, I wrote a memo to Perot in Dallas recommending that he begin to think of dropping out of the race. The only reason to remain in the contest had been the prospect of Clinton and Dole running a status quo race. With Kemp aboard, Dole was committing himself to a reform campaign, one that would embody the two central themes that Perot had forced upon the political establishment: A balanced budget and a new tax system. With no central issue left, Perot would have to make his appeal on marginal issues and would quickly find himself becoming a historical asterisk. My guess is that Perot is not yet at that point, but close enough to entertain a Dole emissary. It must cross Perot’s mind to throw his support to Dole/Kemp, because they are in a sense the products of his own intellectual energies. To see them extinguished by the anti-reform ticket of Clinton/Gore, which is in the back pocket of the Big Guys of Corporate America, who Perot detests, would be a distasteful thought to Perot. His problem is that having come this far, what reason does he give his troops in the field for dropping out, when he has said he would not? In flying to Dallas to meet with him, Dole campaign manager Scott Reed could not have done much more than collect information. It would take a much heavier fellow than Reed, who Perot would look upon as a boy, to negotiate a last-minute withdrawal. As long as Dole looks like a sure loser, with or without Perot, there is no percentage in Perot joining a sinking ship. If there is a last-minute deal, Perot should ask for a firm commitment to produce a new tax code by 1/1/2000, with Perot’s help.  

FARRAKHAN: Louis Farrakhan is in the same boat as Perot. He has by this time so thoroughly telegraphed his intention to personally vote for Dole/Kemp that he has put his entire organization at risk. As far as I know, he has not had the slightest contact with anyone in the GOP campaign, but he has publicly announced that this is the last time the Democratic Party is going to be able to keep the African American vote on the liberal plantation. Everyone knows he could lead a big bloc of votes to Dole/Kemp if he wanted to, but he needs a reason to tell his followers that it would be a good thing for them to do. That is easy to do, it seems to me, given the fact that Farrakhan most wants for his constituents the same things Kemp wants. At a speech this week at Fairfax High School in West LA, which he attended as a boy, Kemp put national reconciliation as his highest priority, higher than tax cuts, economic growth, or power itself -- a clear echo of the speech Farrakhan gave last week in NYC calling for global reconciliation. The bigger problem for Farrakhan is the financial vulnerability of his organization. Without the protection of the GOP after the elections, the political establishment will continue its campaign to put him out of business. As HUD Secretary, Kemp was the first to approve federal contracts for the Nation of Islam to provide security at public housing developments. There is already a full court press by the establishment, including the major media, to abrogate these contracts and to prevent new ones from being signed. With no foothold in either party, Farrakhan can rely only on the integrity of the federal courts to protect him from the establishment’s destructive power. It is that power which is preventing the Jewish community from responding to his offers of reconciliation.

POLLS: If you take note of the op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal by Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, a GOP pollster, please note her reason for elevating the Reuters/Zogby poll above the others. It is consistently the one that shows the best results for Dole/Kemp, even while they trail, because it only includes voters who say they have made up their minds. The polls showing 15 and 20 point leads for the President are based on people leaning in that direction. In this election, voters are still hoping Dole will give them a better reason to vote for him than he has given them, but they don’t know what that is. In the Reuters/Zogby tracking poll today, Clinton leads by 8.7%, 45% to 36.3%, and at the same time 43.4% prefer a GOP majority in the Senate to 38.4% for the Democrats, and in the House, 40.1% prefer Republicans to 38.4% Democrats. Zogby does show gathering strength for Dole/Kemp in the western states, which has to happen if a win is possible. If it’s Dole/Kemp, the nation would be up until the wee hours waiting for California to report. My hipshot guess at the moment would be that if it Dole/Kemp were to win, the Senate would remain Republican, the House would swing to the Democrats, and Rep. Charlie Rangel of Harlem would be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. I will surely feel differently tomorrow. 

DOLE PROMISES: In his Saturday radio address to the nation, to which nobody listens, Bob Dole will give the most important speech of his life. Exactly at the moment when we all have agreed he is a man of his word, a man who can be trusted, Dole on Saturday will promise us how he will conduct himself in the Oval Office. He will make promises not to give us this or that, but to be like this or that as problems confront him in the Oval Office. This is something he has never told us about, largely because he has never thought about it. Being outside the campaign, I can’t tell you what Dole will promise, try as I might. But it will be the first time that he commits himself to conduct as opposed to policy. I’m told by insiders that there is an enormous amount of debate going on inside the Dole campaign regarding these promises, with the numbers shifting hourly and the wording of each promise being debated vigorously, as if the U.S. Constitution were being written all over again. Last night I heard there were 9 promises, today 7, maybe 8. My recommendation was that 10 were good enough for Moses and the Bill of Rights. It should be good enough for Dole. It may not sound exciting, but there is nothing more that Dole could do to assure the American people he is worthy of the Oval Office than by promising a code of conduct. They already know how President Clinton conducts himself. A man who is driven by a desire for respect knows he must always keep his word. This means he gives it sparingly, and only when he knows for sure he can. A man who is driven by a desire to be loved knows he must give it constantly, even though it means he must break his word just as often. We might think of President Clinton as Scarlett O’Hara, America’s foremost existentialist: “Fiddlededee, I’ll worry about that tomorrow.”

INDEXING CAPGAINS: Ted Forstmann’s op-ed article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, “Indexing Capital Gains, a Very Big Deal,” has been gathering force to the degree journalists are writing about it a bit more, and Jack Kemp is getting an enthusiastic reception everywhere he goes in discussing the idea. What is missing is a rousing endorsement from Bob Dole, which will not come unless the Republican governors rouse themselves from their despair about the “inevitable” loss of Dole/Kemp and make some noise on its behalf. If Dole is a man of his word, that means he will not give it unless he will do it. And he can’t if the 30 GOP governors are not interested. The governors I’ve spoken to in recent weeks cannot believe how they have been ignored and misused by the Dole campaign. The GOP governors are in states that have 75% of the electoral votes, yet they feel the campaign treats them as if they were spear carriers who are only useful in helping raise money for the abysmal tv spots the “handlers” are producing. 

FOREIGN POLICY: In the Polyconomics website today [], we run a letter I wrote to Henry Kissinger yesterday on the conduct of foreign policy. No big deal, but I thought that while All’s fair in love and war, it isn’t in peacetime. I suggested to Dr. Kissinger that neither he nor the other experts who fought the Cold War realize that the paradigm has changed. Neither has President Clinton. Of Dole’s foreign policy advisors, only Robert Ellsworth and General Colin Powell have done so.