Shrub on the Stump
Senator Sway
Religious Righteousness
Gore's Choice

Norquist and Hatch Aid Bush

Shrub on the Stump

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE—Not the least impressive aspect of George W. Bush's campaign is his squad of Secret Service-look-alike Texas Rangers—replete with little silver stars on their coats and reminiscent of the Blues Brothers—jumping unexpectedly on chairs and whispering intently into intercoms and rushing around the room in manic style. They always precede and then surround the candidate, whose main struggle, as he goes around the state, is to keep his mouth from turning down into a smirk. This preppy Southern mannerism hits the spot in South Carolina, but is jarring in New Hampshire. The wily Yankees mistakenly think young Shrub is making fun of them.

The nonstop debates have become a principal feature of the primary campaign, and here Bush starts with two big pluses. The first is the specter of Grover Norquist, a genial conservative Washington lobbyist who glides in and out of the Republican leadership circles on Capitol Hill and whose major goal in life is to reform the hated income tax. In recent months, Norquist has been visible as a Microsoft lobbyist. In New Hampshire he is working to advance Bush's interests by pushing attack ads (budgeted at $100,000 for the primary) against John McCain's tax policies.

Presidential candidate and Utah senator Orrin Hatch functions as another Bush surrogate. Hatch, who is registering around 1 percent in the polls, is the ghost of Senates past. He's there to represent the conservative Republican Senate leadership, and remind viewers, lest they get carried away with McCain's crazy carryings-on, that Hatch, not the Arizona senator, represents the best of the sensible Senate. He's also conveniently placed so that if need be, Bush in debate can lateral a friendly question to the Utah conservative, who can then engage in a not-so-friendly thrust at McCain. The question is, what will be Hatch's reward for these valet chores?

McCain Enthralls Franklin Firemen

Senator Sway

At 6:30 last Tuesday evening, John McCain, surrounded by a cocoon of cameras and friendly reporters, strode into the high school at Franklin, New Hampshire, a small former mill town. The entourage burst into the gym, packed to the rafters with 500 people roaring their welcome. Franklin is a center of McCain support, partly because of its proximity to a veterans' home nearby.

While the Arizona senator may have gained a fan club among liberal reporters, here in Franklin he laid out a most conservative agenda: He is pro-life; interested—but not that interested—in the environment, conceding the "possibility" of global warming, and promising, if elected, "to put the best scientific minds in America on this issue." He speaks with authority about the military, the need to modernize the armed forces, and the national responsibility to make a better life for veterans who are society's discards. He thinks the acting Russian president Vladimir Putin is nothing more than a "former KGB apparatchik."

Like Bush, McCain takes a cautious line on tax cuts, arguing that not all the surplus should be turned over as a tax rebate, but that some should be aimed at incentives to help the working poor. He wants to put about two thirds of any surplus into Social Security, which he would reform by introducing personal savings accounts so individuals could invest part of their retirement fund in the market. Another 10 percent would go to medicare. McCain said workfare represents the "greatest achievement of this century." Most of all, he wants to take Social Security "out of the hands of Congress."

McCain doesn't believe in tax cuts for the rich. He wants to raise teachers' salaries to compete with lawyers'. He believes in capital punishment. He runs as a war hero on a sturdy, Goldwater-type platform.

And people at Franklin loved him. Unlike so many politicians who seem removed, speaking in sound bites and memorized stump slogans, McCain lives in the minute. Reagan turned politics into a propaganda movie, elevating the military to heroic caricature. His New Hampshire town meetings were full of bands playing "America the Beautiful" and blustering speeches against Castro and the Kremlin. McCain has lived what Reagan talked about. He transforms the nasty, belligerent-looking Legionnaire into the friendly vet next door—easygoing, self-effacing, funny, and directly answering people's questions, and, most of all, telling drop-dead fascinating stories.

Having lunch at the Manchester fire department Wednesday, the senator ate bites of chili and relived the fight to save the aircraft carrier Forrestal during the Vietnam War. A dozen firemen sat around the table, listening in rapt attention as McCain told what it was like on the flight deck when a fighter's missile malfunctioned and fired into the ship itself: the havoc on the decks, the men fighting the fire for a day and a half as the ship's commander realized he was engaged in a struggle to save the huge ship from sinking. Then McCain likened the 134 men who died fighting the ship's fire to the recent disaster in Worcester, Massachusetts, where six firemen died.

McCain's campaign was undeterred by last week's series of stories that sought to portray him as intervening on behalf of special interests that had contributed to his war chest.

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