There is an interesting kind of political perception. The argument is, O.K. , our being in the Persian Gulf unilaterally is a very bad idea. There are variations on this. You can, like Dukakis, Simon, the other Democrats, say we should replace American ships with some kind of United Nations force, we should get our allies involved, we should adjust, wiggle, what have you. But we cannot pull out because it would Look Bad. Now I am fascinated by the importance of image in international politics as well as national politics. What you have here is a concentration not on reality, not on, “Is this dumb? Is this smart? Is this good for us? Is this bad for us?” But on, “How will it look?” Now as you all know, politics is particularly a calling that is obsessed with not how things are, but how they look. And I must say perhaps the tendency, which has always been inherent in politics, has been exaggerated to the nth degree by eight years of the Reagan administration, which is a public relations administration. They have governed by public relations for eight years. So that this unfortunate political characteristic is exaggerated and has come to the fore, and we see it again in areas of war and peace. It may seem to you, as it does to me, utter folly to worry about how we look rather than what we’re doing. Nevertheless, there it is, big as life and twice as natural. Jackson, among the Democratic candidates, has some peace issues, some foreign policy issues that he pushes that are actually quite good. His best line is that he has met more foreign leaders than any other candidate running unless you count George Bush, who’s met a lot of dead ones. Jackson is an interesting political problem for the Democratic party . The leadership of the Democratic party is terrified of him. They’re terrified of him because there are a lot of polls showing that particularly white Southerners think that Jesse Jackson has a sort of veto on the selection of the next Democratic candidate. And that sets white Southerners on edge. They don’t want to have anything to do with a party where Jackson has the final say. So the leadership of the Democratic party has been dancing around Jesse Jackson, trying to make it clear that they are not paying any attention to him. To the extent that Paul Kirk, the party chairman, has on a couple of occasions literally refused to shake his hand. The symbolism could not possibly be more clear. It doesn’t seem to be changing anyone’s mind, of those who thought Jackson ruled the party anyway. The fact is that Jackson’s people are going precisely for a veto, they want enough troops to bring to the convention so that they can push their issues. My own reading is that it’s folly for the Democratic party to try to distance itself from Jesse Jackson. To the contrary, he brings to the party not only the merits of his own case and his own talents as a politician, but he can bring into the political ALAN POGUE George Bush process voters no one else can and that’s tremendously important and for that reason alone he deserves to be treated with respect. I must say that I, like the rest of the press corps, am terribly soft on Bruce Babbitt, even to the point of being a little mushy. Very few of us think that he will survive Iowa or much beyond Iowa, although, again, he could come in fifth, who knows? He seems to be at this point destined to be the succes d’estime of this .campaign, in other words, the guy who has the courage to tell the truth and consequently gets no votes at all. On foreign policy his particular twist is to I think correctly say that essentially we won the contest with the Soviet Union. That capitalism has clearly proved to be a more effective economic system than communism this is being recognized everywhere, in the Soviet Union itself, in communist China. It’s not something we need to push anymore. It’s not that kind of terribly tense fight; it’s not even a Cold War anymore. We’ve won. Relax. Now, let’s turn our attention to where the real problem is, and, says Bruce Babbitt, it is directly to our south. That for years now our primary foreign policy emphasig has been the Soviet Union and Europe, that kind of globalism, that kind of Atlantic alliance outlook and that this is no longer serving us well because what we need to do now, first and most importantly, is look to Mexico, Central America, and Latin America. That is a particularly intelligent line of discussion and I’m glad to see him opening that up. Babbitt’s chief problem is that he is living proof that television lies. He looks hideous on television, to an extent that it is sort of difficult for me to explain to you if you haven’t watched him closely. Rick Hertzberg wrote a description of it, how the muscles in Babbitt’s face move and twitch and his tongue kind of sticks out like a Gecco lizard’s, and his eyebrows start to twitch and he just sort of shakes a little bit. Your reaction is, as you watch him on television, “Is this man about to bite the head off a chicken?” Now poor Bruce has been studying. He knows he’s terrible on television and he works and works at it and they send him to television school and they give him television coaches and the poor man has to watch himself on television tapes, over and over, trying to get better. He says very earnestly, “If they can teach Mr. Ed to talk on television, they can teach me.” The trouble is, Mr. Ed had some talent to begin with. Albert Gore has been trying to position himself as the conservative in the Democratic race to appeal to the Southern vote. The fact is that Gore’s record is very liberal and his efforts to paint himself as the conservative candidate are fairly . . . I mean, only a liberal would notice the difference. Conservatives certainly don’t. But he has been doing a bit more flagwaving than the other candidates and the assumption is that this will stand him in good stead in the Southern primary. I have no idea whether it’s going to work for him or not. Wouldn’t surprise me if he won, wouldn’t surprise me if he lost. Wouldn’t surprise me if he came in fifth. ON THE REPUBLICAN side, I think there are some interesting foreign policy issues and I think the way they are being debated is quite interesting. George Bush, theoretically their front runner . . . Bush, of course, has simply fallen heir to Reagan’s foreign policy and must of necessity defend it. As he declared passionately last year, “If it costs me my political career, I will .not distance myself from my President.” Courage like that leaves you breathless, I know. I do have to tell you, if you all haven’t been following it, George Bush’s career as a twit has been proceeding apace. Monday last at a forum in Iowa some woman rose in the audience and said to Bush, “Why are you in favor of abortion?” And the Vice President was very indignant and said “I’m not in favor of abortion, I’m totally against abortion, how dare you say that, that is absolutely incorrect; I’m against abortion.” And then after the forum he comes up to thil . woman who is standing there with a Jack Kemp flyer in her hand. He clearly assumed that she was a plant. Whether she was or not I have no information. And he takes the flyer out of her hand, rips it up and says to her, “Fini!” We’re all going, “Fini?” He’s speaking French in Iowa? There are days when I worry about the veep. This is my favorite George Bush story. It was in 1984 on the worst day of George’s life. You may know that at least once during 12 FEBRUARY 26, 1988
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