Why Bush Is Sitting on His Olive Branch

  • Share
  • Read Later
For those waiting for the two fiefdoms of the Republican party — those of George W. Bush and John S. McCain — to extend olive branches now that their battle is over: Keep waiting. Both sides indicated this week that they'll press on with their separate agendas rather than grit their teeth and join hands in the name of their party. On Wednesday, McCain's advisers announced plans to form the "Straight Talk America PAC," which would fund a sort of perpetual traveling soapbox for their guy to keep his reform vision alive. Bush, meanwhile, was busy telling the New York Times that he wasn't prepared to embrace McCain's agenda, which includes stringent campaign finance reform and a smaller tax cut than Bush has proposed.Bush's tack has left some campaign analysts scratching their heads. Ever since last week's Super Tuesday victory and the Arizona senator's "supension" from the GOP race, it has been expected that the Texas governor would kiss and make up with McCain in an attempt to appeal to the large number of independent voters who backed McCain and are seen as vital to a Republican victory in November.

So why's Bush sticking to his guns? It may be a case of making every effort to prove that, in stark contrast to popular perceptions of the reigning commander-in-chief, he's unwavering in his convictions. In the Times interview he repeatedly made it clear that his policies aren't "poll driven," an obvious gibe at Clinton/Gore. More likely, the Republican nominee is just taking a wait-and-see approach. "We don't know if the campaign finance reform issue will hurt him in the general election," notes TIME Washington correspondent John F. Dickerson. "The Bush camp will wait to see what the polls say in a couple of weeks." And, in fact, campaign finance appears to be an issue he can afford to waver on. "This is simply bad territory," says Dickerson of Gore, who's been the focus of much media attention in recent days for his alleged role in the 1996 White House telephone fund-raising scandal. "At the end of the day, if Bush presses the campaign finance issue, Gore won't have that much to say in return."