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Here's the Strategy, Kid

"You can't be serious!" the earnest young democrat threw himself back in the plush chair and stared at the Wily Old Democrat. Behind the leonine head and silver-white hair, a floor-to-ceiling window framed a spectacular view of Washington, the kind of view a $750-an-hour consummate insider can afford.

"I'm as serious as a clogged tax loophole," the Wily Old Democrat said. "Been on the phone all morning tellin' anyone who'd listen to make sure G.W. wins."

"But you've been a Democrat since..." the Earnest Young Democrat began.

"...since Harry Truman was tryin' to find the White House men's room," said the W.O.D. "And I promise you, son, it'll be the best thing for us since the Republicans nominated Goldwater."

"You mean because Bush won't have a mandate, and there's no real majority in the Congress..." said the E.Y.D.

"Son, that doesn't even scratch the first vein of this gold mine," the elder said, chuckling. "Just think about it for a minute. Say it's Bush after all. You'll have a President who may well wind up with fewer votes than the other guy. And the Republicans will have maybe five votes to spare in the House and maybe one vote to spare in the Senate. Might even be 50-50. But look what some folks in his own party want from him - maybe ease up on the environment, maybe start naming those pro-life judges."

"Right, right," said the E.Y.D. "How can you want Bush to change the Supreme Court?"

The W.O.D. chuckled. "Son, try and peer around the corner just a little harder. Suppose Mr. Bush names a Clarence Thomas type. Can he get him confirmed? With 49 or 50 Democrats, and Republicans like Jim Jeffords and Olympia Snowe and those other moderates? All that'll do is fire up our base. In fact, pray he does name a fire breather. He loses in the Senate, and we get, oh, maybe $20 million or so for the next election.

"And speakin' of our base," he continued, "you're going to have two years to let our folks stew in their anger. They're gonna believe every minute that Mr. Bush, Daddy's spoiled kid, cheated his way into the White House. You want to think what that means for turnout in two years... for taking back the Congress? And, meanwhile, if Bush does try to move to the center, how about all those Republicans who've waited for their guy to get through their agenda? I don't think that's gonna be a very happy time for G.W."

The E.Y.D. shook his head. "I don't feel good at all about losing the White House." The W.O.D. smiled benignly. "Look at it this way, Son - poetic justice. If we had told Bubba Bill two years ago that he had let us down, that it was time to pack his bags, we'd have had Al Gore in the White House with all of Clinton's record and none of his baggage. Instead, we all rallied around him - and Gore paid the price.

"So now," he said, "we wait while G.W. turns into Jimmy Carter - and kick his butt in four years with our Ronald Reagan."

"And who," the E.Y.D. asked, "would that be?"

"Son," the old man said, "even I can't see that far around the corner."