KAREN DICKEY Buses, Bush and Blue-pencils BY MOLLY IVINS On the Clinton bus, Corsicana IT IS A SHOW, and a good one at that. I’d recommend it for everyone, regardless of political persuasion, who enjoys vintage American politics. Our political life is now so dominated by television that it’s wonderfully pleasant to be able to wander down to the courthouse or the mall in your own hometown and listen to the guy who wants to be President while he’s out there sweating in the sun with everyone else. That the entire show is orchestrated for television is just one of the facts of contemporary life. Clinton is an exceptionally good campaigner. I make this observation in the same spirit in which one would note that Joe Montana is an artist on the football field, even if one were a Cowboys fan. What is, is. The “liberal media” is not inventing Bill Clinton. A couple of notable things about Clinton as a campaigner: His stamina is incredible, and he tends to get stronger as the day goes on. He blends gentle ridicule of the whole Bush era with a “We can do it” pitch that is actually classic Reagan we’re the optimists; they’re the pessimists. He has a standard litany of what he plans to do if elected. To my surprise, the one that crowds like most is the national service idea. Clinton wants to set up a national college trust fund, so any American can get a loan to go to college. Then, he emphasizes, the student will have to pay back the loan, either with a small percentage of his or her earnings after graduation or by giving two years to public service as a teacher, as a cop, working with inner-city kids, helping old folks. As the list goes on, the applause swells, “We can rebuild this country, we can save our cities, we can do it, we can!” Clinton and Al Gore have a lot of material to work with, given George Bush’s record, his dingbat mode and his latest goofy proposals. Both men needle the president constantly and are rapidly turning the “family values” convention to their own advantage. Meanwhile, the Bush team, now under Jim Baker, is already quicker at responding and has now dropped family values. Bush probably made a mistake when he told the evangelical crowd in Dallas the weekend after the convention that the Democrats left Molly lvins, a former editor of the Observer, is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Copyright 1992 Creators Syndicate Inc. Bill and Hillary Clinton in Austin G-O-D out of their platform \(that was before An Episcopalian really should know better than to try to out-Bible a couple of Baptist boys. Both Clinton and Gore can quote Scripture to a fare-thee-well, but the ever-magisterial Barbara Jordan, daughter of a Baptist preacher, used it most witheringly at the enormous rally in Austin, “Everyone who calleth to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will not get in. Who will get in? Those who do the Lord’s work.” Much of the Texas tour, viewed as whole, is an exercise in inoculation. The Clinton campaign fully expects Bush to go on television with massive negative ad buys. In Texas, two obvious targets are guns and gays if past Republican performance is a reliable indictor, the gay-bashing will be done below radar, on radio Clinton tried to defuse the.gun issue \(he supports the Brady bill, the seven-day hold on gun for the Brady bill and touts it as a common-sense measure to help law enforcement. The Republicans’ Texas attack plan, entitled “September Storm,” contains a memorable wincer. The Rs refer to the political operatives with whom they plan to flood East Texas as “Stormtroopers;” you don’t have to be Jewish to flinch at that lack of historical sensitivity. There are three qualities. that make Clinton such an effective campaigner energy, stamina and joy. Of the politicians I have watched, he is most like Hubert Humphrey and Ralph Yarborough. He loves doing this he gets energy from people. A lot of politicians, Lloyd Bentsen, for example, move through crowds smiling and shaking,’ but the smile never reaches their eyes, and you can tell they’d much rather be back in Washington cutting deals with other powerful people. In his book, What It Takes: The Way to the White House, writer Richard Ben Cramer suggests Bush despises politics, considers it a dirty business and consequently believes anything is permitted. The different thing about Clinton is that he listens to people as he moves among them Humphrey and Yarborough were always talking. Clinton listens and remembers and repeats the stories he hears. I have read several of the poetic effusions produced by my journalistic colleagues about Clinton’s bus tours and laughed. On Thursday evening, in the late dusk, moving among the thousands gathered on the old suspension bridge over the Brazos in Waco, I realized why so many of us wax poetic about these scenes. It’s not Clinton who’s so wonderful it’s America. Politics and Planes Austin “I will never let politics inteifere with a foreign policy decision.” George Bush, Aug. 20, 1992, Houston. 10 SEPTEMBER 18, 1992
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