A Winning Strategy

Posted: Sep 25, 2005 12:00 AM

Crystal ball time.

It’s 2008. For the first time since 1952, neither of the major parties has an incumbent (president or vice president) on the ticket. Who will emerge victorious?

On the Republican side, half the Senate will run. But Frist, McCain, Graham etc. will fail. Senators almost never win presidential elections. They have too much baggage -- ask Bob Dole or John Kerry. The smart money’s on a governor, maybe Romney from Massachusetts or Owens from Colorado.

Here’s a dark horse: Haley Barbour of Mississippi. He’s a conservative, he’s got Washington connections and he may be the only politician in either party who’s excelled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Now: Name the Democratic frontrunner. Go ahead. Take your time. A name’s sure to come to you eventually.

There is Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia. He’s attractive and rich -- good qualities in a candidate. But he also jacked up taxes in the Commonwealth by some $1.5 billion last year because, he said, it was important that Virginia maintain its good credit rating. That’s right -- the tax increase was supposedly necessary so, in the future, the state could borrow money at a lower rate. Probably not a winning platform nationwide.

And that’s the real problem: There is no liberal platform that can be popular nationwide. All the ideas and all the proposals are on the right. This isn’t news, of course. But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it’s more obvious than ever.

Katrina is being called the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States, and there’s no doubt the president’s initial response was too slow. But no politician except Barbour has distinguished himself in the wake of the storm.

Perhaps liberals want to cast their lot with the vulgar-mouthed mayor Ray Nagin, dithering governor Kathleen Blanco or spendthrift Sen. Mary Landrieu. All three have criticized the president without offering solutions to the problem. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s big idea was to fire FEMA head Michael Brown. Great. Brown’s gone, and things are improving -- which they already were before Brown stepped down -- but what next?

Conservatives, on the other hand, have been busy. My employer, The Heritage Foundation, has assembled a complete response plan.

First off, conservatives want to cut federal spending elsewhere to pay for Katrina relief. And there’s plenty of fat in the current budget. Lawmakers could save tens of billions simply by eliminating earmarked projects (pork barrel spending) such as those in the recently passed highway bill.

That idea isn’t overwhelmingly popular on the left. “I’m not really into cutting [spending] right now,” Sen. Minority leader Harry Reid announced. Fine, but what are you into?

Meanwhile, with no ideas of her own to promote, Pelosi had to steal one of ours -- sort of. “I would give [my earmarks] up to help Katrina victims,” Pelosi told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The people of San Francisco would be proud of that.” They might be even more proud if she hadn’t later announced she would consider giving up $70 million in earmarks but was certainly going to keep $50 million set aside for the Golden Gate Bridge.

Conservatives also want to ease environmental regulations and encourage private organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity or local churches, to replace bureaucrats in the rebuilding process.

Because there are so many ideas on the right, liberal columnist Bill Berkowitz recently warned, “Hurricane Katrina could prove to be the mother of all testing grounds for a passel of active Heritage Foundation domestic policy initiatives.” Berkowitz, who calls himself “a longtime observer of the conservative movement” must be aware that when those ideas succeed, people in the Gulf Coast region will be better off. Meanwhile, faced with the failure of government at every level to protect people, liberals still will be trying to figure out how to respond. No doubt they’ll blame President Bush somehow.

Former President Bill Clinton gets it. He told his former flack George Stephanopoulos, now an impartial journalist for ABC, “The country in 2008, and I think in 2006, will be in a desperate mood to come together and move forward.” Clinton probably would agree that to move forward you need ideas, and to come together you must be positive.

Keep the pointless attacks coming, liberals. There’s another election coming soon, and every day the outcome becomes easier to predict.