Bush’s performance in two GOP candidate ’debates’ in the past month has turned the presidential race upside-down - or at least guaranteed a real contest. The overall impression, shared by both parties - one with undisguised glee, the other with barely disguised gloom - is that the overwhelming frontrunner is simply ’not ready for prime time.’
Bush’s performance in two GOP candidate ’debates’ in the past month
has turned the presidential race upside-down - or at least guaranteed a
real contest. The overall impression, shared by both parties - one with
undisguised glee, the other with barely disguised gloom - is that the
overwhelming frontrunner is simply ’not ready for prime time.’
Americans have seen enough live interviews, from dutiful White House
correspondents anxious only to be noticed by their hometown editors, all
the way to the insensitive bully who ambushed Pete Rose, to know when a
prominent news figure - especially a serious Presidential candidate - is
ducking a question by going to a prearranged memorized paragraph from
the stump speech. Sometimes it works in a debate, but more often than
not, it just points up the non-answer.
George W. Bush contributed a few of these in the first debate, reminding
us how he had been Governor of Texas and a friend of education, no
matter what the question. Then came the question many reporters had been
waiting to ask: ’What books are you reading?’ Bush responded quickly
that he was reading a biography of former Secretary of State Dean
Acheson. No further questions.
But not for long. At the next debate, the Acheson book surfaced again -
’What did you learn from the book?’ Poor George, who should have had an
extensive briefing about Acheson, a key figure in US foreign policy at
mid-century, could only recite some formulaic paragraphs about strength
and standing tall.
Worse, he later defended his answer by saying, ’In a one-minute answer,
it’s hard to give a complete book report.’ Now, it’s only high school
and college students who use the term ’book report.’ Presidential
candidates give their opinion of a book, they form judgments about
books, they may even agree or take issue with a book review; someone who
still talks of ’book reports’ hasn’t read books seriously, if at all,
since his days as a student.
But political observers think the Republican Party will not let Bush
disappear. First of all, there is a huge investment to protect, and the
alternative is only John McCain, and members of the GOP establishment
don’t just dislike McCain - they hate him.
McCain’s position on campaign finance reform, mainly his support for a
ban on soft money, is a dagger pointed at the core of special interests,
both left and right, but the right has more at risk.
Democrats take heart in all this. ’Keep Bush afloat,’ they are secretly
urging their opposite numbers, on the theory he is now increasingly
easier to beat than McCain.