Memo To: SSU students, website browsers, fans
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Last Race of the 20th Century
It's Thanksgiving break at Supply Side University. Today's "Memo on the Margin" is the introduction I wrote to my just-published book about the 1996 presidential campaign. I'm hoping those who read it will be interested enough to order a copy, which can be done here or at Amazon.com, or through the book stores. Several fans who have already read the book have taken the trouble to write comments, which might further help persuade you it is a book you should read in its entirety. This memo will remain posted until Monday, at which time we will return to our regular schedule. Happy Thanksgiving.
Why would anyone want to read a book about one of the least interesting presidential races of the century? From start to finish, the 1996 Clinton-Dole contest appeared to be no race at all, with President Bill Clinton certain to easily win re-election against Bob Dole, the Senate Minority Leader. And so he did. Yes, I think it could have been won by Dole, which is what kept it so interesting to me from start to finish, but that is not what led me to undertake the writing of this book. It is because I came to see this last race of the century as a stepping stone into the next -- a contest not so much of political personalities as of spent political forces. It was a campaign that on the surface had almost nothing to say about the future, despite all the President's talk about building bridges to the next century. This, I think, is why fewer than half of all eligible voters cast ballots, even with Ross Perot's independent candidacy providing a third choice.
Yet as the last gasp of an era that began with the end of the power of monarchy in World War I, it does have within it the seeds of the epoch just ahead. The United States is now clearly the Global Sovereign, alone at last atop of the power pyramid of the world for the first time in history. The rest of the world, without exception, knows and accepts the fact that the USA is the boss and will be probably for centuries to come. What kind of boss will we be? The 1996 presidential race only hinted at this kind of discussion, but because of the prime focus on domestic policy and the nature of the partisan combatants, Clinton and Dole, it never ripened to the level of debate. It must and will in the first race of the 21st century. It is the intent of this book to help prepare the reader for what to expect.
As a participant at the edges of the campaign, I was able to observe it from different points of view. I'd known Bob Dole since 1969, writing about his freshman term in the Senate when I was the political columnist for the Dow-Jones weekly, The National Observer. My closest contact with him was as an outside, unpaid, informal advisor to him during the first two years of the Clinton administration, 1993-94; it was within this period I wrote him some 200 memos, statements or speeches, many of which he acted upon. Disappointed in the stance he had chosen as the 1996 race began, in early 1995,1 bid him farewell and a few days later began a successful effort to persuade Steve Forbes to enter the contest for the GOP nomination. I'd also advised Ross Perot in his 1992 campaign, at his invitation early in that year, and in 1996 advised him again.
Working with Perot's man Russ Verney, who ran the Reform Party, I came fairly close to persuading Jack Kemp — my closest friend in politics since 1976 - to accept the Reform Party presidential nomination. When Dole then chose Kemp as his running mate, pulling him out of announced political retirement, I was again a source of steady advice, both through Kemp and through the Dole campaign team. I produced several memos a day through the homestretch of the campaign, trying to find fresh ideas that Dole and his team would find attractive enough to adopt. Kemp advanced each one of the major initiatives I proposed, and each was aborted at one stage or another. My account here is not in any way a chronology, but rather an idiosyncratic perspective designed to offer the reader a better sense of what that race was about. It is not the conventional history having been written in the service of the status quo. I hope it will provide a head start on the dynamics that will define the first race of the new century, which promises to be as fascinating and important as this last was superficially dull. As the last Republican candidate for President whose world view was primarily shaped by World War n, Bob Dole could never break from that powerful influence as the campaign unfolded. President Clinton, a man who fled military service, was his commander-in-chief. Before the American electorate could get to a new century, it had to have this last fling with the old.
* * *
Political journalists who write books about presidential campaigns like to think of themselves as writing "the first cut of history." This is really a modern phenomenon,, first undertaken by the late Theodore H. White, who wrote The Making of a President, 1960, about the race between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. It was the first election in which I cast a vote, choosing Kennedy, although I was not sure he was liberal enough for my tastes at the time. My first great political love, at age 16, was the Democratic nominee of 1952, Illinois Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson. I was so sure he would defeat the Republican nominee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, that when he was skunked, I became so sick to my stomach that I had to stay home from school the next day. Because it was so difficult to hate Eisenhower, I'd come to hate Nixon, Ike's running mate in '52. That was easy to do. I'd come from a family of Pennsylvania coal miners, with my maternal grandfather as far left as one could be in that era without going to jail. I was taught to hate Nixon the way only political adolescents of any age can hate. As a result, the first vote I cast in 1960 was really not for JFK, who I viewed as a competitor of my hero Adlai, but a vote against the despised Nixon. The election had a happy ending for me and so did Teddy White's account of it. My early attraction to politics had led me to a life as a newspaperman, and I was fortunate enough to cover at least a piece of the Kennedy-Nixon campaign, their debate in Los Angeles that fall, during a brief stint at the Culver City Star-News.
By 1964, I had moved on to the Review-Journal in Las Vegas, Nev. As the daily political columnist, I'd written about the race that year between President Lyndon Johnson and Sen. Barry Goldwater. Once again, I voted for the Democrat not out of any special affection for him, but because I worried that Goldwater would be too quick on the trigger in foreign affairs and too conservative on social policy. I'd had many black friends and room mates while I was an undergraduate at UCLA, and had been impressed with a speech Martin Luther King, Jr., gave at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and written a column praising the Black Muslims for being uncompromising in their demands for racial justice. Goldwater's ascetic conservatism seemed cool toward working people in general and Negroes in particular. Still, as a 28-year-old, I'd already shed my early "knee-jerk liberalism," as it was then called. I found myself more attracted to the young Republican politicians in Las Vegas, who were interested in new ideas, than I was with the Democrats, who already had a formula for political success and saw no need to change. By the end of the campaign, I could write that Goldwater had begun a movement that would not end with his overwhelming defeat.
The year also caused me to re-evaluate Richard Nixon, discarding my adolescent hatred of him and for any political figure from then on. This occurred after my editor at the Review-Journal, Robert L. Brown, told me he had known and admired Nixon, especially on Nixon's grasp of foreign policy and the emerging importance of the Pacific Rim and Asia. At Brown's suggestion, I read Nixon's biography, Six Crises, and felt ashamed that I'd held such an unreasonable hatred for him. Instead of seeing him as a two-dimensional caricature of a "commie witch hunter," I saw in him the Quaker peacemaker who would one day go to China. Two days after election day in 1964, I wrote a column predicting that Nixon would be the GOP nominee in 1968 and that he might pick as his running mate the Nevada Republican, Lieut. Gov. Paul Laxalt, who had just lost his run for the U.S. Senate that week. My prediction that Laxalt would win the governorship in 1966 as a stepping stone was fulfilled, and according to the accounts of the 1968 race, Laxalt was among the top five candidates Nixon considered as his running mate before choosing another Catholic GOP governor, Spiro Agnew of Maryland.
It was at this point of my life that I began to have confidence in my ability to make political prophecies. The key was in the lesson I had learned from my editor, Bob Brown, to think through political ideas for myself from every fathomable angle, as I did in re-evaluating Nixon, instead of always relying upon the ideas of one political faction or party or person. I felt it gave me an edge over other political reporters, at least those who tended to partisanship. In later years, the experience is what enabled me to see and appreciate the perspectives of several candidates for the same office, as one can appreciate the play on a chessboard, no matter who the contestant, no matter who the winner.
In 1968, although still a registered Democrat, I voted for Nixon, the man I once loathed, instead of the Democrat, Hubert Humphrey, a man I greatly admired. I'd lost confidence in the Democrats' handling of the Vietnam War, having observed its management as the columnist of The National Observer, which I had joined in the spring of 1965. In studying the origins of the war, I was especially unnerved by the way the Kennedy administration sanctioned the 1963 military coup in Saigon and murder of our ally, President Ngo Dinh Diem. My youthful liberalism and attraction to the New Deal welfare impulses had also given way to alarm at how profligate LBJ had been in creating Great Society programs. It wasn't entirely unreasonable on his part, I thought at first. The economy was booming in 1965 on the heels of the Kennedy tax cuts that President Johnson enacted in early 1964. Revenues were pouring into the Treasury at rates that persuaded the Democrats they had discovered a bottomless cornucopia of cash. They called their discovery a "New Economics," a variation on Keynesian economics, with which we might fight wars against communism and poverty, at home and abroad. By 1968, these fantasies had been dashed by the exponential increases in the costs of the war and the welfare entitlements. These had been compounded by enactment of a war tax in 1967 that overrode the "New Economics." The 10% surtax on the income tax weakened the economy and sent revenues even deeper into the red. In his 1968 campaign, Nixon promised a plan to end the war, an end to the Vietnam surtax, and sound Republican management of the poverty programs. I bought the story and so did the electorate.
Through 1971, I remained at the Observer, writing about the glacial pace of the exodus from Vietnam and the Nixonian experiments with the economy. I watched the pragmatic Nixon defer his promise to end the Vietnam surtax and in 1969 sharply increase the tax on capital gains, which hardly seemed the Republican thing to do. This gave me my first insight to the difference between the "old money" of corporate capitalism and the "new money" of entrepreneurial capitalism. In February 1971, I met the chief economist of the Budget Bureau in the Nixon administration, Arthur Laffer, who became my first economics teacher over many lunches and telephone lessons. This was also my first contact with what I later came to call "supply-side economics," or the economics of production — quite the opposite of the Keynesian economics of consumption. In August 1971, Nixon took the country off the gold standard for the first time since the Civil War. I was fortunate to have Laffer privately confess to me that he thought it was a monumental error, and explain why it would cause worldwide financial turbulence and undermine the primacy of American banking. He also confided to me that he had learned what he knew from a man he thought the best economist in the world, a Canadian named Robert Mundell. In January of 1972, I transferred within Dow-Jones from the Observer to the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at exactly the time Mundell was alone in the world in forecasting a great inflation.
There was no difficulty in deciding between Nixon and Senator George McGovern in the 1972 race. Nixon was inching us out of Vietnam as best he could. Wage and price controls were still in effect from the 1971 decision to go off gold, so the inflation Mundell had predicted was still not a palpable fact. And I still did not know what Laffer's economics was all about. When the inflation hit, the universal view was that it was caused by the Arab oil countries, which had quadrupled the oil price in 1973. At the Journal, we had been persuaded by Mundell and Lafifer that going off gold caused the oil price to rise, and then everything else. In fact, the gold price had quadrupled before oil did. It was in the years leading up to the 1976 presidential race between President Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, the former governor of Georgia, that I finally got my arms around the economics. It also dawned on me, to my horror, that the demand-side economics of consumption, which was at the heart of public finance in both political parties, could only lead to national economic collapse. In the Spring 1974 issue of The Public Interest, I wrote "The Mundell-Laffer Hypothesis: A New View of the World Economy." In the fall of 1974, I interviewed Mundell for the Journal editorial page in an article titled, "It's Time to Cut Taxes." The first elected politician I tried to sell the idea to was Bob Dole, but I soon realized he did not have the time or inclination to learn a new view of the world. I tried several other Senators with the same result, finally finding my man in Kemp, who had read the interview with Mundell and decided to champion tax cutting, practically out of desperation. His blue-collar district in Buffalo had the nation's highest unemployment rate at 20 percent.
The longer essay got the attention of a 30-year-old political junkie named Jeffrey Bell, who was Ronald Reagan's research director, and Bell attempted to incorporate some of the ideas into the Reagan campaign for the GOP nomination in 1976, but the efforts were botched. In the general election, President Ford's team was not interested in my tax-cut ideas. I made a trip to Atlanta, trying to interest the Carter people in supply-side ideas, but they were also going in the other direction. On election day, my wife and I decided to split our votes, she for Carter, I for Ford. After Carter's election, Jeff Bell decided to run for a U.S. Senate seat on the ideas I had outlined in the Public Interest. He also persuaded me to write a book about my general theories, which became The Way the World Works, published in the spring of 1978. Bell won the GOP nomination in June 1978 on his tax-cut ideas, unseating five-term Sen. Clifford Case. In the general election, though, Bell shifted gears and ran as a cultural conservative, stressing his support for constitutional amendments to ban abortion and permit school prayer. He was defeated by a former professional basketball star, Bill Bradley, who said he also favored tax cuts, but opposed Bell's cultural conservatism. In the midst of the campaign, I resigned from The Wall Street Journal and became an entrepreneur, founding Polyconomics, Inc., which gave me the latitude I needed to be an active player in presidential politics.
The supply-side economic ideas of the Bell campaign survived as Reagan began his run for the GOP presidential nomination in 1980. His campaign manager, John Sears, a former campaign aide to Nixon, had been impressed with Bell's astonishing victory over Senator Case. Sears persuaded Reagan to build his campaign around our economic ideas and to bring Jack Kemp, into a formal campaign role. Kemp had worked as a summer intern for Reagan in 1967, between football seasons, and Reagan had actually studied economics in college, from 1929 to 1932, when the kind of supply theory Mundell and Laffer were espousing was still being taught. It was a perfect fit all around. It was because of Sears's decision that Reagan pitched his campaign toward economic growth instead of balance-the-budget "fiscal responsibility," and it was the promise of growth that got him to the White House, unseating Jimmy Carter. A third-party candidate, former Republican congressman from Illinois, John Anderson, collected a small percentage of the popular vote. And for the first time since 1952, the Senate went Republican.
The Reagan landslide of 1984 over Walter Mondale, a former Minnesota Senator who had been Carter's vice president, was instructive in that Mondale boldly campaigned against the Reagan tax cuts. Indeed, Mondale might have lost the nomination to an insurgent, Colorado Senator Gary Hart, who was cautiously opposing Mondale on the tax issue and seemed to have the momentum, until he weakened on the issue a few days before the Illinois primary and was beaten back. A sex scandal then finished him off before he could recover. Reagan campaigned on his "Morning in America" theme, which spent a fortune on unnecessary television advertising, financed by the taxpayers. The stock market was booming and so was the economy, and Reagan was pledging to further reform the tax system in his second term to get the tax rates even lower than he had in his first. The Senate stayed Republican and the House Democratic.
In 1986, there was a bipartisan deal struck on tax reform, one that supply-siders were not exactly happy with. On the plus side, the top marginal income-tax rate was brought down to 28 percent from 48 percent and ordinary income associated with wages, interest and dividends was indexed to protect against inflation. To "pay" for this reform, the capital gains tax was raised to 28 percent from 20 percent and capgains were not indexed to protect against inflation. Real-estate depreciation rules were also tightened, which led to serious declines in real-property values. This further undermined the savings-and-loan industry, which had been savaged by Nixon's 1971 decision to go off gold. Banks can withstand monetary inflations, but S&Ls, which borrow short and lend long, cannot. Immediately after the 1986 tax act, the voters turned the Senate back to the Democrats. Supply-siders crossed their fingers and hoped that the problems associated with these negative aspects of the reform could be corrected after the 1988 elections. We banked on Jack Kemp winning the GOP nomination. Instead, the Republican primaries turned on foreign policy, with Vice President George Bush the only one of the six principle GOP contenders supporting President Reagan in his peace initiatives with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. I was among the very few advisers who warned Kemp that he could not win the nomination by opposing the President on this critical issue.
When Kemp dropped out of the race as soon as it was clear Bush had it won, the Bush director of research, Jim Pinkerton, called and asked if I could come to Washington to discuss the campaign's economic plank with George W. Bush, the vice president's son, and Michael Boskin the Stanford economics professor who was to become chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. I did so and advised that we were most concerned with the capital gains tax and hoped it could be brought down to 15 percent and indexed against inflation. Bush said his father had no problem with this, and in fact had come to understand its importance when he was in the risky side of the oil business. In the campaign that followed against the Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, Bush campaigned vigorously for the 15 percent, indexed rate - along with his pledge not to raise taxes in other areas. The result was another Republican landslide, although the voters still gave the Democrats control of Congress. Bush, after all, had been identified with the austerity wing of the GOP, the balance-the-budget-at-any-cost wing that traced its lineage to Herbert Hoover.
In the four years that followed, President Bush wrapped up the Cold War, with a successful Persian Gulf War thrown in for good measure. But he not only broke his read-my-lips pledge on taxes at his earliest opportunity, in 1990, his economic team, led by Treasury Secretary Nick Brady and Budget Director Dick Darman, threw in the towel on the promise to cut the capital gains tax to 15 percent and index gains to protect them against inflation. By November 12, 1991, I'd given up on President Bush's re-election chances. Writing in The New York Times, I said: "Unless a serious growth-oriented Republican challenges Mr. Bush, supply-side Reaganauts have no choice but to look for a Democrat in the tradition of John F. Kennedy, the last Democratic leader who put grass roots growth ahead of Fat Cat America's budget-balancing mania."
A week later, Pat Buchanan entered the race for the GOP nomination, denouncing the President for having broken his no-tax pledge. A few weeks later, a mutual friend connected me and former California Governor Jerry Brown, who threw his hat into the Democratic ring and ran as an offbeat, supply-side tax reformer. As outsiders, neither Buchanan nor Brown got very far, but Brown did throw a scare into the Establishment by winning the Connecticut primary on his call for a "flat tax." He was, though, not sufficiently prepared to defend the idea and his campaign collapsed in the New York primary when New York Senator Pat Moynihan warned that the Brown flat tax would destroy Social Security. In April of 1992, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was solidly backed by the Democratic Establishment and the GOP was split down the middle, with President Bush backed by the GOP Establishment, but damaged goods with ordinary people. It was clear a Clinton-Bush contest would rock no boats. Into this political vacuum vaulted Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, who would run as an Independent.
A few weeks after the famous "Larry King Show" propelled him into the race, Perot called me on the advice of a friend, Ted Forstmann, the New York financier. A week later I stopped in Dallas and spent several hours talking politics and economics with him. I explicitly told him that his idea of scrapping the entire tax system and writing a new one on a fresh sheet of paper was one the voters could appreciate, but that the Establishment would do anything it could to stop him. "First they will try character assassination," I told him. "Then maybe real bullets." The former was all that was required, given Perot's inexperience as a candidate and the ineptness of the man chosen by friends to be his campaign manager. Ed Rollins had technically been Reagan's campaign manager in 1984 when his ineptness, revealed several times in later campaigns, was concealed by Reagan's popularity and Mondale's promise to raise taxes.
After Clinton's easy victory, I found myself without a political lever at or even near the center of power. With neither an elective nor appointive post, Kemp had little choice but to spend the next year or two on the speaking circuit. My working assumption was that he had been beaten so soundly in 1988 and been left with such enormous debts that he would pretend to be running for President in 1996, but would eventually bow out, which is of course what happened. Beginning in early 1985, though, I had developed a close relationship with Federal Reserve Governor Wayne Angell, once I realized he understood the problems Laffer warned me in 1971 would occur by going off the gold standard. Angell and I had traveled to Moscow together in 1989 to advise the state Gosbank and to Beijing in 1993 to advise the People's Bank of China on conversion to a market capitalism. Angell, a Kansan, had gotten his appointment at the Fed via Bob Dole's influence at the Reagan White House. Angell was of course eager to see his patron win the GOP nomination in 1996 and urged me to help Dole in the interim. In the spring of 1993, Dole, Angell and I had a Sunday brunch at the Four Seasons in Washington, and we cemented an arrangement by which I would counsel Dole, who as leader of the Republican Party was now the second most powerful political leader in the world.
My relationship with Dole over the next two years was extremely interesting and intellectually satisfying. We spoke only on my visits to Washington, when I would sit for 20 minutes or a half hour in his Capitol office and discuss whatever was topical. Otherwise I communicated through his press secretary, Clarkson Hine, whose office adjoined Dole's and who was responsible for assembling Dole's reading file. Each morning at 5:30 or 6, I would read The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and write a brief memo that I would fax to Dole via Clarkson. As a guest at my client conference in Boca Raton, Florida., in February 1994, Dole joked that he had two piles of faxes on his desk from me, one four feet high labeled "bad ideas," and one six inches high labeled "good ideas." At our Four Seasons brunch, I had told Dole that he could expect a great many ideas from me, but I would not be offended if he discarded most of them, as long as I knew I was being useful.
At an early meeting in his office, I told him I did not think Kemp would run in 1992, that his confidence had been shaken in his 1988 defeat. In any case, I told Dole I would not abandon him in favor of Kemp if Jack chose to run, but would hope that would produce a Dole-Kemp ticket. The way I put it was this: Jack was a football hero, a champion who was used to the adulation of crowds. He could be defeated one Sunday but come back the next and win. His defeat in 1988 was the psychological equivalent of losing 100-0 in a Super Bowl. It will take a long time for him to recover, and he might need a season as a back-up quarterback to be fully repaired. You, on the other hand, were a war hero, used to dodging bullets in a foxhole, with no adulation from the crowds. At the time, I was told by David Gergen, an old friend from the Nixon days who had agreed to go to work at the Clinton White House the same weekend I brunched with Dole, that it was the assumption that Dole would decide not to run and that Jack would.
My most important contribution to Dole was in persuading him to make serious use of a freshman Republican in the Senate, Robert Bennett of Utah, in beating back the Hillary Clinton plan to socialize medicine. Early in 1993, Dole had co-sponsored a smaller version of the Clinton plan proposed by Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island, a GOP liberal, scorned by conservatives as "Clinton Lite." I advised Dole that he could forget the nomination if he presided over enactment of such a plan and that Bennett of Utah, who had become an enormously successful entrepreneur after he turned 40, would be able to guide him to a solution that would not crush small businesses. Dole did so and Bennett developed the strategy that blocked the First Lady's national health scheme. At my urging, Dole also asked Bennett to be his point man in dealing with Treasury's request for bailout money following Mexico's surprise devaluation of the peso on December 28, 1994. With Dole's help, Bennett, Angell and I thought we could push Treasury into helping Mexico roll back the devaluation in exchange for the support of Congress which the Republicans had won control of in the previous month. Kemp, who had decided not to run at this point, joined in the effort to save Mexico's economy. Dole did his best and so did Bennett, who Dole called his "Mister Mexico," but in the end Dole's inability to grasp the intricacies of what was at stake caused him to throw in the towel. Treasury got its congressional support and Mexico kept its devalued peso and the recession that would follow.
My frustration with Mexico was one of the ingredients that eroded my confidence in Dole. There would be other straws before my break with Dole, although there was never any personal conflict with him. Indeed, the longer I saw Dole close up, the more I realized what a nice fellow he was behind his dark visage and acerbic wit. Reserved and aloof, yes, but even more kind, considerate and generous. In one of my last meetings with him, I told him how I never knew whether or not I liked him, but up close saw how considerate he was to people who many politicians I've known would treat as being inconsequential, a waste of time. Jack Germond, the hard-boiled political writer for the Baltimore Sun, observed on a Sunday talk show during the campaign that in a secret ballot in the Senate, Dole would beat Clinton 3-to-1. Above all, in the Congress, Dole was a man of his word.
Dole, though, had a totally different mindset when it came to running for national office. He had been on the losing Ford re-election ticket in 1976 and had been a protege of Richard Nixon, who had counseled that as a Republican, You run to the right in seeking the nomination, and run to the left in seeking the presidency. This, in fact, was one of the reasons Kemp, who also been counseled by Nixon on national politics, decided not to run. Kemp found it most uncomfortable positioning himself on matters of ideology or principle. He could fudge to the right, but he could not run to the right. As soon as Kemp decided not to run in 1996, Dole no longer had to worry about his left flank. He could join the pack of conservatives in the GOP primaries and position himself close enough to the moderate center to win the nomination, which he probably believed he had wrapped up as soon as Kemp was gone. The last conversation I had with Dole was on Monday, January 30, to inform him by telephone from my office that Jack would announce later in the day he would not be a candidate.
From that point on, through the next several weeks my morning memos to Dole continued, but he was clearly shifting gears in accordance with Nixon's prescription of running to the right in seeking the nomination. On a "Meet the Press" appearance, he indicated he might have to rethink his support for affirmative action for African-Americans in light of the report that 62 percent of white males had voted Republican in the 1994 congressional races. A memo of protest from me made no impression, as the following week he told CNN that his first act as President might be to end affirmative action, after he was informed Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who was also running right, had made that vow. Economic growth or tax cuts suddenly disappeared from his public comments and he began emphasizing the need for a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget, which was a relic from Ronald Reagan's California days but an idea anathema to most supply-siders. Newt Gingrich had put it in his Contract With America and Dole believed he had to pay obeisance to it in order to win the support of Perot fans. Finally, on March 5, the Sunday New York Times Magazine appeared with a cover story on Dole written by a young reporter, Ruth Shalit, who had asked him about "the vision thing." Dole responded that if people want "vision" they should remember "Reaganomics" which produced "all these deficits."
No political event had made me so physically queasy since I went to sleep in 1952 knowing Eisenhower had defeated Stevenson. I called Ruth Shalit to make sure the statement was accurate, and she read it back to me from her notes. I then called Clarkson Hine, Dole's press secretary, to tell him about how serious this quote was, that it was a torpedo Dole had fired which would turn back on him and hit amidships. When I did not hear back from him or Dole, I wrote the following memo to the Senator, dated March 6, 1995:
Your quote on Reaganomics was an unfortunate setback to your presidential candidacy. On top of your handling of the BBA [balanced budget amendment], it took all the heart out of me, not to mention the Reaganauts who read it and talked to me about it. The mere idea that you still have in your head the idea that Reaganomics ran up the deficit was a chilling reminder that you never bother to ask about these things. (My mother-in-law called my wife after reading the article to tell her about your "awful crack about Reaganomics.") I've told both Bob Bennett and Jack Kemp that I've lost all enthusiasm for your candidacy these past weeks, since Jack dropped out and you moved steadily away from our world view. Kemp says I should not throw in the towel and so does Bennett. As politicians, they may be better able to assess your perspective, but they have no satisfactory explanation for your steady move away from Reagan. I began to write a bridge-burning essay today, but Jack talked me out of it, although I have no idea what I'm supposed to wait for. My recent efforts to pull you back from the path that has failed you every time you have tried it have done no good. The Times article makes it clear I have been of no use to you at all in analyzing the world around you. All Nov. 8 means is that the people want change, but you will eat the hat of anyone who can tell you what the change is about. From a dozen people I've gotten the question, why does Dole want to be President? You didn't answer the question in New Hampshire and you didn't answer it in the Times article. The picture you leave is a man at his desk in the Oval Office, waiting for a problem to appear in his "in basket."
Bob, I still think you are a national asset. You are still the front runner and may somehow find your way to the nomination and the presidency. I think the last two years would have been disastrous without your legislative leadership. I continue to wish you well and if the field does not change, I will probably wind up voting for you in the New Jersey primary. Indeed, I may be of more use to you at a distance than in your corner. At least, you may come to value my opinion more than you have. At the moment, though, I cannot honestly say I can be in your corner, or, indeed, that you want me there.
In the next few days, I half expected to hear from Dole, asking me to reconsider, to explain that he was just kidding about Reaganomics and did not expect the wisecrack to appear in print. When no call came, I had to assume he no longer believed he had to worry about Kemp and the supply-siders and would be just as happy to see me take a hike. My God, I thought, Dole could never beat Clinton if he did not run as a convert to Reaganomics, but chose to run as a deficit hawk He and Clinton would slug it out over dead issues instead of fundamental issues of global peace and prosperity. The nation and the world are looking to the United States for direction on a new world order in security, diplomacy and the international economy. If this is where Dole would go, we would waste 1996 in meaningless jockeying for power, with nobody getting a serious mandate for change. After a few sleepless nights, I called Steve Forbes and suggested he run for President. The rest is the historical perspective you will find as you step into this book. I can only promise that it is accurate to the best of my knowledge and far more interesting than the campaign was reported. It will definitely give you a running start on the first race of the 21st century.