Brother, Can You Paradigm?
Jude Wanniski
April 29, 1999


Memo To: Gov. George W. Bush of Texas
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Political Allegiances

Do you remember the cute little phrase, "Brother, Can You Paradigm?" It was coined by your father's Budget Director, Dick Darman, who I understand you have barred from your campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Too bad; he turned a nice phrase. In a very real sense it applies most particularly to you, George. The main reason why I resist joining the Bush bandwagon that has been orchestrated by the Republican Political Establishment is that it is axiomatic that political establishments are fearful of new paradigms and always favor something very close to the status quo. So if the nation as a whole must find a new paradigm for a new era, it is not likely to get one in a Bush administration designed and populated with GOP organization folk. Your father, of course, was an organization man. So was Bob Dole and, except for Ronald Reagan, the other GOP presidential candidates of the past half century.

Dwight Eisenhower is the exemplar of the organization candidate, a war hero created out of whole political cloth in order to assure Republican victory in 1952. The organization even arranged for him to be president of Columbia University, to invest him with an aura of learning and lofty impartiality a long way from battlefields. He of course rarely showed up at Morningside Heights, having not the slightest interest in higher education. His handlers were successful in getting him the GOP nomination. His main competitor, Senator Robert O. Taft of Ohio, was deemed too conservative to win, and perhaps he was. Taft did favor a reduction of the high wartime income-tax rates, but Eisenhower adopted a tax-cutting plank in his platform that neutralized Taft's appeal. After winning the White House and bringing with him a Republican Congress, Ike went before his first press conference as President to answer the first question about when the people could expect the tax cut. The fatherly Eisenhower announced that because the budget was out of balance, the people would have to wait for their promised tax cut. In 1954, the electorate gave the House and Senate back to the Democrats. There has never since been a Republican President with a Republican Congress, although the voters trusted Reagan with six years of a GOP Senate -- taking it away from him when they began to see the drift toward austerity in the 1986 off-year elections.

In this case, George, the paradigm remains risk-taking versus security. A paradigm, after all, is like a Maypole, around which a tethered party dances. It enables all members of the party to know where they should be even when they don't have direct access to party directives. Does the sun revolve around the earth? Or does the earth revolve around the sun? It's important to have the right paradigm, you see, or you and your party will not find favor with the electorate. You can try, as your father did, to fool the voters into thinking you think the economy revolves around risk-taking and growth, not budget balancing. "Read my lips," he said, and we believed him. He couldn't help himself, George. The pull of the Establishment was too great and he was overwhelmed. His later apology was not enough. I urged him to fire his Establishment Treasury Secretary, Nick Brady, but he couldn't and wouldn't do it. Dick Darman wasn't helpful, thinking he could have his cake and eat it, dancing around both poles at once. Treasury's role with Brady was pivotal, though, in arguing that your father should break his pledge.

Now I think the masses or ordinary Americans want the new paradigm, George. Unless you can in the course of the campaign find a way to persuade them that you are not the organization man when in fact you are, there is no way the voters will give you the White House and the Congress. If you won the nomination, there is no way I think the national electorate would trust you to hew to a course of action spelled out in the campaign, because we all know you have no independent guiding mechanism. Your are your father's son and thus the embodiment of the GOP political establishment. If the Democratic Party Establishment puts up Al Gore, you could defeat him, I'm sure, but with the Democrats returned to control of the House. If Bill Bradley, the populist candidate in the Democratic Party wins the nomination, the odds would favor him beating you in 2000 and bringing with him at least a Democratic House.

We see reports that you are being schooled in the issues of national importance as fast as that can be done. This only confirms my judgment that you will be an Establishment puppet in the Oval Office, a boy monarch signing papers prepared for him by his ministers. When I saw you had chosen Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz as your outside national security advisors and Larry Lindsey and Marty Feldstein as your outside economic advisors, it was clear that you had no chance to escape the clutches of the organization. These are Old Paradigm people, although I'm sure you may not know exactly why. Trust me, they are. They are Obsolete with a capital O, nice guys all, but with a fanatical determination to anchor the GOP in their Cold War ideas of national security and conservative Keynesian commitments to economic rigidity. Don't say I didn't warn you.