Memo To: Steve Forbes, candidate
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Good Luck and God Speed!
Having done all I could to discourage you from running for the GOP presidential nomination this time around, I now have to marvel at your Scot determination to do it until you get it right! Your "stick-to-it-iveness," as you like to put it. You know I always will be here to give you advice, if you want it, and because I've not wed myself to your campaign this time as I did last time, I will not bitch at you if you don't take my advice. You certainly have a shot at winning, if you do things right, because I continue to believe you would make a good President if you ever could figure out how to get up the ladder. Reporters have been calling me lately from thither and yon, and I have been telling them I thought you should focus on the New Jersey governorship in 2001, and straighten out our state. Even if you don't grab the prize in 2000, you can think of moving right into the governor's race. To do that, though, you really have to have a good showing in the primary races next year, or the back-to-back defeats will tag you as unelectable.
The biggest problem you have is in connecting with the electorate this second time around. You know, I think, that you should never have allowed your campaign staff to talk you into negative tv spots against Bob Dole in '96. You'll have to make people forget about that in the year ahead, so it goes without saying that you should leave the rest of the pack out of your calculations and sing your own song. Have you read my book on the '96 race? You really should, especially the chapter about how I prodded you into the run. I did, for the first time, publish the memo I wrote to you from Hawaii in March of 1995, after I gave up on Dole. It's not as stale as it might seem, because the issues I raised never were dealt with in the campaign. They are still out there.
You may have heard that Dan Quayle has asked for my help, and I am giving it freely. It's really pleasant to have someone of the former Vice President's standing asking for my help, and he has already taken some of it in bits and pieces, enough to make me think he will be a much better candidate than conventional wisdom suggests. Not simply that he is doing what I suggest, but that he is listening hard and picking out what he wants from the smorgasbord I offer. A presidential candidate has to be a good listener, willing to shift gears at a moment's notice, open to a great variety of opinion, never fixed in concrete. If your supporters or the electorate begin to think you have a rigid gameplan and inflexible agenda, you will be discarded even if they happen to agree with you at the moment. The voters are smart enough to know they need a President who can respond to constant change in the world around us.
I've written on this website, in a memo to Bob Novak, that I would give my best advice to any candidate, of either party, until I settle down into a decision to definitely support one candidate over all others. I don't think Vice President Gore will call, because I would advise him to forget about global warming and to start worrying about global cooling!
Remember the piece I wrote about you when you announced your candidacy in 1995? I thought about it yesterday when I read about your announcement and looked up your campaign website, which I have bookmarked. Here it is again, a reminder of where it all started:
A Star is Born September 25, 1995
Malcolm (Steve) Forbes, Jr., political leader, was born at 10 a.m., Friday morning, weighing 190 lb., 6 oz. He began talking immediately and has not stopped since. His first words were "17% flat tax" and "gold standard." Phrases like "vast potential" and "hope and opportunity" come easily to his lips. Godfather Jack Kemp, who had been Doleful of late, told a reporter from The New York Times that the infant's chatter was "music to my ears." Six-foot Steve stood upright and took a few steps without stumbling, always a good sign. Spectators in the maternity ward, at the National Press Club in our nation's capital, peppered him with questions, left and right, some hostile, directed at the silver spoon with which he was born. The babe remained warm and cuddly, though, displaying a broad smile that my wife Patricia thought "elfin" and "impish." Doctors Evans&Novak stopped by Saturday, slapped him gently, and found him a surprisingly sturdy and promising lad, who seems to know a lot for his age. On Sunday morning, baptized by Tim Russert on Meet the Press, he was found charming by the aging, arrogant William Safire. Steve, of Scottish descent, confounded the dean of the political press corps, David Broder, who asked him if he knew the price of milk: "$1.99 a gallon," said the young billionaire, who does the family shopping at the A&P and was told by his papa to watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves. Congratulations flooded into the Forbes political office, a white house in Bedminster, N.J. In the first 24 hours, there were 500 offers to volunteer from well-wishers around the country, more than a hundred from Iowa. Invitations to speak flooded in too, with one from the 8,000 wildcatters of the Independent Oilmen, who convene Nov. 17 in San Diego, the GOP convention city. George Alcorn of Houston, leader of the oilmen, these greatest of all gamblers, had heard the newborn presidential candidate twice say the magic words, "All growth is the result of risk-taking," music to his entrepreneurial ears. In an editorial, Investor's Business Daily cheered his arrival, "At Last, A Pro-Growth Candidate." We know he can talk and we know he can walk. Welcome, Steve, to the marathon.