Pundits cannot resist the easy device of comparing President Bush's re-election chances to that of his father's in 1992, although they are different men in different times. Logic might suggest seeking out other former presidents more similarly situated to President Bush for their re-election -- perhaps Reagan in 1984, or Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, or perhaps Richard Nixon in 1972. But alphabetic similarity seems to trump historic memory in the minds of commentators. The received analysis is that Bush pere fought a successful Mideast war, then the economy went sour, and he lost. Now, Bush fils has fought a successful Middle East war, the economy has gone sour, and thus ... voila -- he may lose, too. The problem with this analysis is that Bush pere did not lose the 1992 election because of the economy -- although had the economy been seen by the public to be satisfactory, he surely would have won. There was so much more that went into Bush pere's defeat in 1992. Indeed, the only president in modern times who lost his re-election bid just because of a bad economy was Herbert Hoover in 1932 -- during the depths of the Great Depression.
Mr. Bush's re-election problems began in 1988 when he campaigned on the Pledge of Allegiance, the ACLU, flag factories, criminals on parole and "read my lips -- no new taxes." While doubtlessly heartfelt, his positions on the first four issues were essentially issues of convenience in running against the pastel liberalism of Gov. Michael Dukakis. The issue that mattered -- the central issue for Republicans since the mid 1970s and currently -- was no new taxes. And on that issue he changed his mind and raised taxes in 1990. With that decision he split his party and outraged his base support. Ed Rollins, then running the House Republican election committee, actually (and wisely) advised Republican candidates for Congress to run against Bush on the tax issue. From that trench of a divided party, Bush soared in popularity by his six brilliant months of creating a coalition and winning the Kuwait War. But the foundation of his support was rotten. After the victory in the spring of 1991, with the economy in the tank, he publicly said he would delay any economic program until 1992 (in fact, he never presented a plausible economic stimulus package). His only domestic agenda items after the war were a transportation bill and a pro forma crime bill. Congressional Republicans were in open revolt -- supported by the then newly dominant Rush Limbaugh -- who was effectively recruiting millions of conservative voters not pleased with Bush's tax increase.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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