An open letter to George W. Bush
By Peter J. Fusco
It is almost cliché, no, I tell a lie, it is cliché nowadays when opponents in any kind of American contest compare themselves to the archetypal contender, "Rocky Balboa". It's hard not to. Sylvester Stallone managed to capture the American image of the noble underdog so perfectly, challengers in every event from boxing to elective office use the now-famous "Rocky" theme as their anthem ad nauseam and with good reason.
Against all the odds, Rocky Balboa wins, not because he is, to paraphrase Apollo Creed, "a great fighter", but because Rocky "fights great".
Remember "Rocky III" when his opponent was none other than Mr. T? I always thought that was the best one of the series, especially because Burt Young (I remember him from an episode of "Baretta"), the most underrated bit actor in the world played his part so well. I digress however.
Rocky loses to Clubber Lang (Mr. T) in their first fight. For the inevitable comeback, Apollo Creed agrees to train Rocky, but there is a real problem. It seems that Rocky's previous beating at the hands of Clubber Lang haunts him to such a degree Rocky loses faith in himself. He sees himself losing to Clubber the first time and convinces himself he will lose again. At the point when Apollo realizes Rocky's heart is not in it, he throws up his hands in despair and says, "What's the matter with you?"
That is what I wanted to talk to you about. You said something the other day that seems to indicate you have lost a little of the faith you absolutely must have in yourself to win. On Wednesday, August 23, 2000, CBS News reported your answer to a 5th grader's question on how it felt to be running for President in which you said, "I don't know whether I'm going to win or not. I think I am. I do know I'm ready for the job. And, if not, that's just the way it goes."
"That's just the way it goes?????" That's it? That's your answer? And to a 5th grader? What is the matter with you, Balboa?
George, listen closely. You may be able to go back to the Governor's mansion in Austin when the dust settles, but the rest of this country will not fare so well. The rest of us will have to pay for your failure. We are counting on you, George!
Now, you listen to me buster! You have two choices here: Win or lose.
Got that? Win or lose!
If you think for one minute that we are going to stand by and watch you toss this election to the wind, you are sadly mistaken.
I want you and those idiots you have working for you to SIT DOWN and listen up! I'll tell you exactly what you are going to do from now on.
You are going to get back in there. You are going to stop listening to those fools around you who whisper "Compassionate Conservatism" in your ear. This country wants and needs a fighter. We want someone who is not afraid to say, "SILENCE IN THE MIDST OF CORRUPTION AND MORAL MORASS AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT MUST NOT BE TOLERATED MUCH LESS REWARDED."
We want someone who has the guts to stand up to Clintonism as it mutates through the likes of Al Gore. We want someone who believes in government's limitations, not its expansion. We want you to tell the truth as it is, not as your advisors think the public wants to hear it.
Damn it, George! What are you waiting for? Why aren't you fighting? Do you think you'll have another chance? Do you think it will come full circle for you? It won't. This is it, pal! You have this one chance and that's all there is. It will never turn your way again, or ours, and all you have to do is ferret out the truth and tell it.
Oh, and by the way, would you mind dispensing with the niceties of genteel campaigning? While you were giving your acceptance speech in Philadelphia, your opponent was bad-mouthing you all over the airwaves. You actually think Americans will remember that you "did the right thing" by staying home and keeping your mouth shut when Gore was on stage creating a human being out of a pillar of stone? May I remind you George, this is a gloves-off fight. Now take your gloves off and start fighting.
What worries me most is your response to that 5th grader. If it is indicative in any way of your approach to the balance of this campaign, you have a serious confidence problem and we are going to solve it right here, right now!
Get it through your head, Al Gore is no brain box, so stop worrying about his intellectual capabilities. Any man who can stand up and say he invented the Internet, was the subject for a novel, the architect of Ronald Reagan's nuclear policy toward the Soviet Union and a prime believer in the cult of Clintonism is a few bricks short of a pallet. All you have to do is point it out over and over again while asking Americans, "Is this what you really want again?"
With your admission to that little kid, you have freed yourself from the shackles of dubious strategy. What have you got to lose by going at these damn Democrat liars with the truth? Nothing! If you are so willing to let the chips fall where they may, then damn it all George, let them fall. We are on the right side, not them. What have we to fear except a press that will distort the truth anyway no matter what you say? You should have known you would always have to take your message directly to the people. You are free to do so now with almost limitless impunity.
You have tried taking several pages from Bill Clinton's electoral playbook, but look what it's done for you. Your opponent is making more of an issue of Clinton's lack of character and absolute moral emptiness than you are and he's capitalizing on it.
He is preempting you on every issue including taxes by claiming to be specific. Instead of taking charge and launching back at him, you flub your responses by trying to be specific as well.
I have news for you George, specifics are not your strong suit. They are rarely the strong suit of any good executive. The best executives have a vision which they translate for their underlings who then put the specifics to the vision.
Falling into that old, political trap is the act of a real rube. C'mon, you're from Texas. No one pulls a fast one on a Texas oilman, especially not a guy like Al Gore of all people, a man who has sustained himself at the government nipple his entire life!
From now on, try to keep the salesman's credo in your mind: "Keep It Simple". Let Gore get tangled in the specifics while you discuss your vision of one America with one people, not a growing number of minorities and classes at each other's throats.
Forget about specifics, especially as they relate to the surplus. All you have to say is, "The surplus belongs to the people, not the government."
Then go on to explain this one, simple fact of government life: "No one really knows how much the surplus will end up being, but reasonable people will agree that whatever is not absolutely essential for operating the best, most useful and effective programs the government has to offer will be sent right back to the people who sent it to the government in the first place."
You see George? It's simple and easy. All you have to do is tell the truth.
You are free George, free to take off the gloves and do what you say you do best, counter punch. You are free to push ideas that excite Americans from every walk of life.
You can do away with the IRS. You can talk about a flat tax. You can dismantle the Department of Education as well as the Department of Energy. You can put nuclear secrets back where they belong, under military watch.
That's the beauty of being a Conservative. It sets you free!
Now you listen to me pal, you are going to abandon the strategy of Compassionate Conservatism and you are going to draw a line in the sand. You are going to make the natural distinctions between us and them. You are going to illustrate just how good a limited government can be. You are going to start telling people that under your watch they will be proud again, you will swear to that. You are going to tell the American people that they are in charge, not government. You are going to give meaning back to the words, "government of the people, by the people and for the people." And you are going to start doing it right now.
Remember when Rocky fights Clubber Lang the last time? Paulie and Apollo
are in Rocky's corner. Clubber is beating the crap out of Rocky. It looks
like a reprise of the first fight. Clubber keeps punching Rocky, but Rocky
will not go down. Finally Apollo gets ready to throw in the towel. Good
old Paulie grabs Apollo's arm and stops him. Apollo protests, "He's
getting killed in there."
Get the picture?
With best regards to the family, I remain,
Peter Fusco has written for The Utica Daily Press, Recycling Today and Summit Magazine and is putting the finishing touches on a book called "The Conservative Gentleman, A Primer For Men in the 21st Century".
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