U.S. president
G.W. Bush should be elected

By HENRY J. WATERS III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune

Story ran on Sunday, October 29 2000

This has been a tough choice for me. Al Gore is an intelligent, determined and well-experienced candidate, but his persona and general approach to governance leave me lukewarm at best. His demeanor puts me off. He is not a natural person who seems comfortable with himself. In the last debate, I actually thought he caused audience members to cringe as he aggressively pushed himself at them. He appears uptight too often. He is well-known as an intense fellow who seizes on details and wants to oversee everything. I donít think heíd be the best manager.

On the other hand, as the campaign has progressed George W. Bush has steadily exuded more of the fundamental qualities I think we need in a leader. He is confident, not too assuming and much more likable. Likability is not enough in itself to make a good manager, but itís an important attribute of the best managers. I would bet on Bush to be the better delegator of authority and responsibility. He is more manager than policy wonk.

Neither candidate is perfect in every policy detail, but we can see their general approaches to governing. Gore wants to use the power of government more aggressively to goad people into certain behaviors. He remains committed, for instance, to affirmative action, even though most people, I think, are seeing the paucity of that policy. He would push federal government more fully into our lives with a thousand detailed initiatives. He is too much.

Bush continually emphasizes government restraint with more reliance on individual citizens. Being governor of a large state is about as good a training ground for the presidency as any, and his track record as governor of Texas is good. In Texas he has had to rely heavily on appointed department heads. More than in almost any other state, Texas has a multicultural population. He has not been insulated from the real world as much as Gore has. Bush is better on issues of the military and defense, indicated by his choice of former secretary of defense Dick Cheney for vice president.

Both candidates share a number of good qualities. Both are upstanding, promising to cleanse the image of the presidency. Though their policy differences are apparent, both share the general middle ground favored by most Americans. Both would reasonably represent the broad center of American philosophy. Thankfully, neither would get to do all the things each promises on the campaign trail.

Since both seem generally acceptable on policy issues, swing voters like me will choose the candidate who promises the best leadership performance. We donít expect to know ahead of time exactly what decisions each candidate will make during the coming term of office. We do want the most comfortable feeling we can get about the ability of the prospective president to create a good leadership structure and react with intelligence and common sense to facts and advice. For me, Bush rings that bell the loudest.

Bush for president of the United States.

Henry J. Waters III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune

Campaign excesses

Frankly, if either Bush or Gore literally would get to do everything they envision during their campaign, I would be terrified. With thanks to some beneficial power out there and a gaggle of perverse legislators, it never will happen.

The twisted pressures of presidential campaigning cause candidates to promise too much. If they lighten up and revert to more realistic proposals, their polls and focus groups show an erosion of marginal support here and there, so they are pushed inexorably into promising something for everyone. The aggregate is too much.

The same is true of the worst kind of advertising, the knee-jerk image type so widely dispersed on television. A major statewide candidate in Missouri told me the other day that in order to hold his tender lead among the few swing voters, he had to maintain what he called the "weight" of advertising everywhere. If his campaign reduced exposure in a certain area, support numbers would begin to change slightly. He couldnít take a chance, so he kept "weight" everywhere. The campaign maintained the blanketing of television ads that are so irritating to most people but apparently affect just enough of the fungible vote.

Television is a great medium for certain aspects of political campaigning. For debates or other extemporaneous appearances of the candidates, television is perfect. When it presents superficial show-biz "news" or concocted advertising that gives no real portrayal of the candidates, it distracts and distorts. Sadly, too many citizens have allowed television to occupy too much of their time, which otherwise could be put to better use, including better analyses of candidates and their campaigns.

Henry J. Waters III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune

Keep your fears to yourself; share your courage with others.

- Robert Louis Stevenson