Sunday, March 05, 2000

I vote for the smartest one

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Rocking and rolling over downtown Cincinnati potholes in a red SUV, with Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Rep. Rob Portman shoehorned into the economy-class backseat, I sat thisclose to George W. Bush on Tuesday night, as the lucky winner of about 15 minutes of what politicrats call “press availability.”

        On the way from the Crowne Plaza Hotel to Memorial Hall, where hundreds waited two hours for a Bush rally, the candidate popped Tic-Tacs and I popped questions.

        According to my notes, the possible next president of the most powerful nation on Earth said:

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        “Indent make decyz. That's not true. Fifty percent.” And added, “McCain won't have a boz.”

        “Aha,” Gore groupies are probably thinking. “Another Bushism, like the time he said he won't let Americans be held "hostile' by OPEC, or his gaffe that race politics "vulcanizes' America, or the time he couldn't name the assistant ambassador of Chihuahuas in Mexico.”

        Wrong. The candidate was articulate, poised, knowledgeable, charming and candid. It was the note-taker who was jittery, jumpy and confused.

        Before the hit-and-run interview, I wanted to ask Mr. Bush to do his famous dead-on impression of “Dr. Evil.” I wanted to ask what he really thinks of the press mob that asks the same stupid questions over and over, like me. I wanted to ask why people who blame him for being named Bush worship anyone named Kennedy even if they act like the Snopes family of Hyannis Port. I wanted to ask him if he would secretly love to drag Bubba out of the Oval Office by his $300 haircut and show him how to feel his own pain.

        Instead, I asked if George W. Bush has become too programmed and packaged by polls and focus groups.

        The temperature in the SUV dropped about 10 degrees.

        His Bushness turned a steely Texas gaze on me — about the way Judge Roy Bean would examine a horse thief. “I'm not about polls and focus groups,” he said. “That's about the most insulting question you can ask a guy like me.”

        After that, my scribbled notes are harder to read. Must have hit a bump somewhere. But I don't need notes to report this:

        Mr. Bush is no wishy-washy lightweight. The two-dimensional cardboard cutout propped up for target practice by Bush bashers is a cartoon that doesn't capture the real man.

        Typical, too. Every four years, the partisan press — ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, PBS, etc. — work overtime to make Republicans look shallow and stupid in order to make Democrats look more intelligent.

        That's how we get media myths about President Reagan drooling through cabinet meetings, President Bush befuddled by a supermarket scanner, Dan Quayle auditioning for village idiot and Bob Dole stumbling around in his bathrobe like some senile nursing home escapee.

        The myths reinforce an article of secular faith among liberals, that government is a complex science that should be ruled only by eggheads who know what's best for us stupid sheep. Geniuses like Marx and Lenin. Or brilliant Rhodes Scholars such as Bill Clinton.

        No thanks. The smartest guy in this race is not the basketball player with big ideas for bigger government, or the “inventor of the Internet” who throws gasoline and matches on those big ideas because he has none of his own. It's not the insurgent who went to the Bible Belt to declare a holy war on religious leaders, or the ambassador from Filibuster who doesn't know when to stop talking. It's not Bill Bradley, Al Gore, John McCain or Alan Keyes.

        I think it's George W. Bush.

        On Tuesday night he said he's the antidote to the attitude that “if it feels good do it, and if there's a problem, blame someone else.” Personal responsibility. Brilliant idea.

        He offered an education plan that looks like a term paper next to the sketchy pop-quiz answers from Mr. Gore, Mr. Bradley and Mr. McCain. And Mr. Bush's plan is already working in Texas, where he has a track record that even Mr. Gore could not invent. Smart.

        And he promised that he will be a president who “will not, will not embarrass moms and dads when they point to the White House.”

        Sounds very intelligent to me.

        As we've learned the hard way, it's pretty stupid to rely on IQ tests and Rhodes Scholarships to measure honesty.

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. If you have questions or comments, call 768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.