Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dole Lacks the Vision Thing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dole Lacks the Vision Thing

Article excerpt

The New Hampshire primary was Bob Dole's to lose, and he did. Instead of beating up on Bill Clinton, Dole chose to lower himself to the level of a junior varsity basketball player who never rises above the amateurish.

If politics is, or ought to be, a contest of ideas, Dole didn't qualify in New Hampshire. Just listening to him speak in meaningless phrases and mangled sentences ("Like everyone else in this room, I was born") makes George Bush and Dan Quayle look like gifted orators.

If Dole is to capture his party's nomination,

he must tell us what he believes and be specific. A few weeks ago, I met Carl Calabrese, supervisor of the town of Tonawanda, N.Y. Calabrese is a Dole alternate delegate to the GOP convention. He told me that Dole needs to "stand for something grand" and that becoming president is not about reciting the fine details of Senate legislation. It's about persuading the voters that your vision, priorities and dreams will move the country into a stronger, more prosperous future.

"Bob Dole needs to leave his Senate past, with all its talk about `scoring by the CBO' and `funding the government by CRs' behind him and start clearly articulating the major themes his presidency will drive."

Calabrese notes that every man who has ever been elected president has had to leave his past - as governor, senator or general - and assume the unique leadership position offered by the highest office. Those who have done this successfully define the office and move history. Those who fail are forced to behave like schoolchildren at final-exam time, cramming ideas into their heads and appearing insincere and phony.

Dole has allowed the central theme of the Republican Party - economic growth, opportunity and optimism - to be obscured. This theme propelled Ronald Reagan into the White House for eight years and gave the Republicans the Congress in 1994.

Again, Calabrese has it right: "In all of the debate over the balanced budget, we have temporarily forgotten that the GOP's real strength is in advocating economic policies that will make the economy grow and people prosper. …

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