Bob Dole's CV Will Not Include "President"

by Gord Gekko
web posted October 1996

I suppose it's dangerous practice to write about something that hasn't actually happened yet. The history of journalism is replete with examples of journalists who forcasted something that turned out somewhat differently. Having said that, it seems a safe bet that Bob Dole will not win the election next month. After all the tearful hand-wringing is over, count on the pundits to explain why Dole lost the biggest race in his life. Since Enter Stage Right is at the leading edge of political analysis, I thought I'd bring you the conclusions long before the election actually happens. Feel free to impress your friends with your new found knowledge. Here then are some reasons why Dole lost The Big One.

The Dole Platform

Though wags will be tempted to ask, "What platform?", it seems that Dole does actually have one. Problem? No one knows it outside of Dole. He started the campaign off banging on about his proposed 15 per cent tax cut, dropped that and started his impression of Dan Quayle attacking Hollywood. Can't a conservative like Pulp Fiction and Cannibal Corpse? Guess not. (By the way, I talked to Paul Mazurkiewicz, drummer of Cannibal Corpse, and he laughed that Dole's attack of the death metal band helped increase record sales.) After that gambit proved useless, Dole moved on to attack Clinton's record on drugs.

Where is the vision? The unifying theme of the campaign. Reagen had his "Morning in America", Bush had his "I was there with Reagen/Kinder, gentler nation/1000 points of light" and Clinton had his "I'm not really a liberal...". You may not agree with Clinton's vision of America, but you have to admit that somewhere he has one. Dole has no theme that he can sell to the voters.

Who's the conservative? Clinton or Dole. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Clinton is managing to out conservative the conservative. Sure, he may not have wanted to sign the Welfare Reform bill, but he did. His arguments of his deficit cutting and tax cuts may fool the voters, but then that's the point. Dole has been circumvented in the "Who looks like an old-style leader" department.

Dole also helped alienate himself to mainstream voters by playing ball with the so-called Religious Right (because according to the media Christians are only Republicans...apparently Catholics and Jews don't vote Democrat). His support for tolerance for the pro-choicers in the Republican Party would have shown that he is capable of charting his own course and inviting different communities to the Party. While this is hardly the straw that broke the tolerant camel's back, it did leave an effect on voters. When it comes to who decides the issues, Dole hasn't the heart. We know it isn't true, but who's going to be convinced now? Nothing looks better than pro-choice Republicans being mocked and shouted down during press conferences.

Dole the Campaigner

It may just be that Dole is all wiped out because of the unusually rough primary race he had to fight against Buchanan, Forbes, etc. Dole looks tired and is making several errors. Dole is avoiding talk radio, something that fostered the conservative revolution of 1994. He was even taken to task about this by members of the talk radio community. While talk radio isn't as conservative as many people think, it is an enormous tool to use to get the message out.

Can Bob Dole look older? Nothing feeds public stereotypes about his age like comments celebrating Hideo Nomo's no-hitter for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maybe some people listen to "There Used to be a Ball Park" (how can you beat those old nostalgia bits?), but these kind of goofs don't make him look old, they make him look senile. Dole's image as the "dour old man" should have been countered, though part of his appeal is that he "doesn't suffer fools gladly", as Dennis Miller stated on The Late Late Show a few months back While I and Miller both agree that Dole's laser eye, used so effectively to communicate someone's idiocy, isn't all that bad, it does make the electorate nervous to think that they may be electing the mean old man who keeps the kid's balls that fall into his yard.

Dole's Record as a Public Servant

There's nothing like running on a 15 per cent tax cut after voting for years to increase taxes. Having said that, Dole's record isn't as bad as many would think. As the National Review recently pointed out, in the past he's voted for things like property rights (S-605), removing race and gender preferences by the Federal Government (S-1085), cost/benefit analysis of new regulations (S-343), the ending of compulsory union membership in 29 states (S-581), reduction of inheritance taxes (S-1086), promotion of a constitutional amendment to require a supermajority to raise taxes, and school vouches (Amendment 2417 in S-1513). We know what Clinton's done and tried to do, how about telling the American public what Dole has done in the past and how that will translate in a Dole presidency.

Dole's Team

Since the inception of his campaign in the primaries, his team has done little to keep Dole on track. Time reported on the sometimes chaos that surrounded the candidate as his handlers bungled one thing or another. In the future, campaigns should be left to those who have a proven track record and can demonstrate daily that they can keep a candidate on an even course.

Where's Jack Kemp? When picked, it seemed like he was hailed as the Second Coming. Anointed with the "He's like Reagen" seal of approval, Kemp is expected to carry the banner of conservatism among the poor and minorities. While he's not wasted in that worthy pursuit, it seems to me that Kemp can also be of some use speaking out on issues. He's popular and talented and if Dole can get over being afraid that Kemp will mis-speak in the name of the campaign, we may yet see Kemp take a greater role. Too little, too late.

It isn't a new phenomenon for candidates, having their colleagues abandon them because of popularity reasons, but the Republicans in the Congress have not helped Dole by avoiding him in fear that his loss will rub off on them in their elections. Even conservative pundits gave him grief by giving him luke-warm support after his win in the primaries. Out of Dole's control, but not helpful regardless.

Dole vs. Clinton

Instead of running ads about Clinton playfully wishing he had inhaled marijuana while younger, Dole should have hammered more on the real issue...The Real Clinton Record. It is not like there isn't a fertile field to be tilled here. Clinton's attempt to socialize medicine, tax increases, etc. is generally disliked by Americans. Dole does have the problem that Clinton seems to have inherited Reagen's Teflon suit since nothing he does seems to affect the voter's opinion of him where it While Clinton's character may be lowly thought of by voters, he still has the support where it counts.

Instead of switching to attack ads (which do work with the public...that's why there are used), Dole should have contrasted visions.

Well, that's a short list of why Dole will lose the election. I could have gone on for a while, but frankly this should suffice. Ultimately the real problem with Dole is that he may very well be unelectable outside of Kansas. He has proved not to be as effective on the campaign trail as many had hoped. Many problems plague the Dole Campaign...too many to fix this late in the campaign. The blame for this can be spread around too many; Dole himself, his staff, Congressional Republicans, conservative pundits. Let's get used to the idea of the last super-power being run for another four years by Clinton. worries me as well.

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