Something strange is happening to John McCain. For a long, long time, he was a pretty typical conservative. Sure, his style was eccentric--he made impolitic remarks about his own party and pointed out the hypocrisies on both sides of the aisle. And, sure, he broke with the GOP leadership on a couple of high-profile issues--campaign finance reform, tobacco taxes. McCain's truth-telling and his war against soft money made him a hero to the liberal press.
It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect. The doubts have crystallized around a reporter's now-famous pop quiz, in which the Texas governor could not identify various difficult-to-pronounce heads of state. Bush, according to many in the press, needs to wonk himself up, and fast. He needs to cocoon himself with all those Stanford Ph.D.s and reemerge with a deep, studied interest in the stability of Central Asia and the efficacy of scattered-site housing.
Were he not a reactionary and a demagogue, I would feel sorry for Pat Buchanan. Not long ago he held a respected position within the Republican Party, wherein he gave keynote speeches at political conventions, represented the conservative viewpoint on TV talk shows, and was courted by party leaders. Now he has become a figure of almost universal disrepute.
It seems like a natural audience for a Democratic candidate. A few hundred retired union workers are sitting on folding chairs in a large hall that resembles a cafeteria at a run-down school-- right down to the off-white walls lined with tan cement columns. Outside, several letters have fallen off the billboard so that it reads, "united ood & commercia workers ufw local no.
I am prepared to vote for my first Republican, John Kasich," read a letter to The New York Times Magazine in May. "I have the impression that he favors no-nonsense politics, equity for the common man, and fiscal restraint, a rare combination in this politically combative era." The letter-writer, Michael Pivarnik of Indiana, Pennsylvania, received this impression from reading a Times Magazine profile of Kasich written by R.W. Apple Jr.
When the Democratic leaders of Congress sat down with President Bush in 1990 to hammer out a budget agreement, they insisted that the deal not impose any additional tax burdens on the poor. After every new twist in the negotiations, the conferees would pause as their staff economists compiled tables detailing how each income category would fare under any given combination of taxes.
Judging by TNR's letters to the editor, the two issues that rile our readers the most are the capital gains tax and capital punishment. The former makes sense to me. Our readers, many of them stockholders, have a personal interest in the fate of the capital gains tax. Yet personal interest alone can't explain this preoccupation; our demographic profiles suggest that very few of you face the prospect of imminent execution. In any case, whenever this magazine publishes something in favor of the capital gains tax--it's been weeks now--we face a torrent of hostile letters.
President Clinton is a paragon of bipartisanship and cooperation, at least when it comes to negotiating with Congress over hundreds of billions of dollars worth of taxes and expenditures. But when the topic is the National Endowment for the Arts, which faces another Republican assassination attempt this month, Clinton turns into a determined, almost Churchillian figure. Though House Republicans have repeatedly voted to abolish the agency, Clinton has refused to meet them halfway.
Republicans were very certain about one thing in 1993. “Three hundred billion in new taxes,” Newt Gingrich declared at the time, “is going to shrink the economy, put people out of work, lower tax revenues.” Op-ed after fearful op-ed echoed this party line: higher tax rates would bring in lower revenues. Of course, just the opposite happened—the economy grew fatter, millions more went to work and revenues soared—and supply-siders haven't had an explanation.