Memo To: James M. Perry, WSJournal
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: New Jersey Senate race
Your Page A20 story on the Senate race between Democrat Bob Torricelli and Republican Dick Zimmer captured the full flavor, and all the aromas, of the contest. The reason they are bashing each other to get an edge with the electorate is that there is really not much difference between them on the issues. Zimmer's tv spots have been pounding away at Torricelli as a liberal, but Zimmer himself is among the more liberal Republicans in Congress. He is said to be Newt Gingrich's least favored Republican, for his willingness to stray off the conservative reservation. As an example, both fellows have supported partial-birth abortions, and I assume both will vote against overturning President Clinton's veto. On the other hand, they are both more conservative than I am in dealing with Fidel Castro, Torricelli being more hawkish on Castro than any other non-Hispanic Democrat in Congress.
Why am I supporting Torricelli over Zimmer if there is not much difference between them? As a matter of fact, I really like both men personally and would be happy to have either representing me in the Senate. As I told you when you called, I've been looking for someone like Torricelli in the Democratic Party for a long time, practically since the death of John F. Kennedy. Back then, I was a Kennedy Democrat, and I left the party because it crept steadily leftward on economic issues. It was captured by the Teddy Kennedy wing that is identified with class warfare, as opposed to the John Kennedy wing that believes a rising tide will lift all boats. Torricelli has rejected class warfare in his style and has broken with his party leadership on the issue of capital gains taxation, which most separates Growth advocates from Security advocates. Zimmer is so frustrated in having Torricelli on the same side on these issues that he has criticized Torricelli's income tax records, which show that he has had investments that showed capital gains.
In that sense, Torricelli is an original, a man who thinks through the issues more than most others who simply follow the party line. Torricelli has the potential of being a great Senator. Zimmer would be better than average, I think, but I've not seen in him the same kind of potential. When I had Torricelli as a guest two years ago at my client conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Jack Kemp was also on the program and in the audience when Torricelli spoke. My clients had expected to hear a garden-variety liberal and they rewarded his speech with a genuine burst of enthusiastic applause. Kemp was the first to jump up and say, "Bob, you're too good to be a Democrat," in the same sense that Charlie Rangel a few weeks earlier on "Meet the Press" said that Kemp "was too good to be a Republican."
By the way, it was in that talk that I first detected Torricelli applying the law of diminishing returns to federal social spending, which is what I meant when I said he applies the Laffer Curve to spending. It is the correct philosophical adjunct to applying the law of diminishing returns to tax policy, which has been the Kemp position and was John Kennedy's as well. In applying it to social spending, Torricelli makes an argument for as much government as we need, no more, no less, which cuts against Republican arguments for less. I hope to see him develop these ideas in the Senate, as he revives the John Kennedy wing of the party. Bill Clinton just can't seem to be able to get that far as long as Hillary has him anchored on the left.