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Three Men and a Party

Saturday, 09 November 2002 12:00 AM

Sometimes it's possible to get a good idea of the nature of a group and where it's going by looking at a few of the people who play prominent roles in the group. This is especially true today with the Republican Party.

In the wake of Tuesday's historic victory, the question of where the nation is headed under a GOP president and a Republican-controlled Congress may well be answered by studying three men who played critical parts in wresting the Senate from the Democrats and increasing the number of Republican House members.

All three represent what could be described as a new breed of Republicans – men not only skilled in the political arts, but also showing a sure grasp of the realities of statecraft as it must be practiced in this new century. And all three have demonstrated an ability to sell Republican programs long demonized by the Democrat left.

These men are George W. Bush, Norm Coleman and Mark Racicot. The three men share an uncommon sense of what this nation needs at this time, what it must do to meet those needs, and how to go about the business of governing the nation at this critical moment in history when America is facing the twin threats of international terrorism and an economy in trouble.

Think about Ronald Reagan and the public perception of him and you'll suddenly realize that the man in the White House today bears a striking resemblance to the former president. In his fine new book, "

"He was a C student at Eureka College. ... He was not a scholar or an intellectual. He had no foreign policy experience when he was first elected president. He put in a short day at the office and allegedly took naps. He appeared to be an unserious, whimsical fellow who spent much of his time cracking jokes. ..."

Sound familiar? Remind you of a president who, to the horror of the liberal elite, is not a scholar or an intellectual, had no foreign policy experience when he was first elected president, and goes to bed at 10:00 p.m.?

A lot of my fellow conservatives have criticized the president because he hasn't pushed enough of the hot-button issues dear to the Right's heart. But he gets things done. What D'Souza has to say about Reagan applies to Bush as well – and it bodes well for the future.

As a senior adviser on domestic policy, the 26-year-old D'Souza had a close-up view and developed a unique understanding of the Reagan modus operandi, which Bush's critics on the right would do well to remember when carping about Bush 43's failure to push the entire conservative agenda.

Noting that Reagan was determined to take on "the big idea of the twentieth century, which is collectivism," D'Souza says he also had his priorities.

Reagan, he wrote, "instinctively understood that the president, powerful as he is, cannot change the world in sixty-five ways. He can change the world in only two or three ways. And so Reagan set his priorities. He wanted to defeat inflation, revive the economy, and arrest the advance of the Soviet Empire."

A president, he wrote, "has to choose his fights."

In his two nearly two years in the White House, Bush has chosen his fights. He understands that politics is the art of the possible. Presidents who pursue the impossible end up failing to do the possible by scattering their resources.

A look at the Bush agenda reveals a list of the possibles, many of which, such as the initial tax cuts, have already been achieved. Over the next two years we can expect to see those goals that George Bush has set for himself – Social Security reform, more tax cuts, an end to partial-birth abortion, etc. – just as Reagan achieved his own.

Bush has shown himself to have a fist of iron, but one sheathed always by a velvet glove. He is a gentlemanly fighter who observes the political equivalent of the Marquis of Queensbury rules.

In the face of some of the most outrageous attacks from the left, he remains cool and avoids being drawn into political cat fights – and in the public's perception, he comes out looking far better than his attackers with their gutter tactics.

This is a man who has shown that he is fully aware of the political landscape that stretches out in front of him over the next two or, hopefully, six years. And he knows exactly how to travel across it and get to the goals he has set for himself and for America.

Both Senator-elect Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and GOP National Chairman Mark Racicot share an ability to deal deftly with political issues, displaying a mind-boggling grasp of the facts and figures coupled with a marked tendency to both advance and defend their views coolly and dispassionately and without rancor.

In his single debate with Walter Mondale, merely by his demeanor and deep knowledge of the issues Norm Coleman drew a startling contrast between the politics of today and those of a past represented by Mondale, an old-style welfare statist and class warfare combatant.

Always calm and fully in possession of himself, Coleman refused to be drawn into a shouting match with his opponent. He spoke in measured tones, never raising his voice but speaking with authority. Speaking of the contrast between his calm manner and Mondale's aggressiveness, he later said, "I believe that some of the tone at the debate had an impact on people."

The Brooklyn-born former Democrat showed his devotion to principle by leaving the party during his first term as mayor of St. Paul. According to National Review: "His support for a school-choice pilot project in St. Paul made waves as well, though the program never became a reality. He also refused to issue a gay-pride proclamation ['It's not the job of government'] and found himself isolated because of his views on abortion ['Being pro-life in the Democratic Party is akin to having leprosy']."

"The Bible says that those who are faithful in little things will be entrusted with greater things," Coleman once said. "I believe I was a faithful steward of my city – together, we created 18,000 new jobs, held the line on taxes and brought professional hockey back to Minnesota."

In every appearance, Mark Racicot showed the same cool self-confidence and understanding of his subject as Coleman. Calm, deliberate, unwilling to engage in the kind of heated debate that has marked American political discourse since the days of the Clintons, Begalas, Carvilles and the despicable Terry McAuliffe, he inspires confidence and assurance that here is a man who can be trusted. Matched against the rantings and intemperate ravings that are the common discourse of the Socialist Democrat left, he wins simply by being what he is.

After seriously criticizing the Republican national chairman, conservative spokesman Paul Weyrich had this to say about Racicot:

"Gov. Racicot impressed nearly everyone with the way he handled the media during the long siege of November 2000 when Florida was still in play. He was cool. He was calm. He was collected. And he was tough without ever sounding nasty.

"If he will perform the same way on behalf of the Bush agenda, the president could do a lot worse."

To which I would add, Mr. Bush couldn't do much better.

Better than any other indicator, these three men typify what the GOP has become under the Bush administration. They are sure-footed apostles of the politics of the 21st century. Confident, well-informed, cool under fire, knowing where they want to take America and determined to get there by reason rather than the heated rhetoric of the class warriors and welfare statists.

It's morning in America, once again, and the adults are fully in charge.

Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute.

He can be reached at

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Sometimes it's possible to get a good idea of the nature of a group and where it's going by looking at a few of the people who play prominent roles in the group. This is especially true today with the Republican Party. In the wake of Tuesday's historic victory, the...
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Saturday, 09 November 2002 12:00 AM
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