Sunday, October 15, 2006

The definition of crazy

Doing the same thing over and over again but expect different results is the definition of crazy.

The Oregonian is asking its readership to take a leap of faith on its governor endorsement even though Saxton promises to do absolutely none of the things that the paper says they want accomplished.

Six years ago, the O asked us to take a similar leap of faith:

October 22, 2000


Summary: The Texas governor has demonstrated during the campaign that he has the talent to lead the nation

Sometime between now and election day, Texas Gov. George W. Bush or Vice President Al Gore might emerge as the nation's clear choice for president.
To date, neither man has staked an indisputable claim to the job.

Here in Oregon, though, our 21/2-week election day is upon us. We have to decide.
We recommend that voters select Bush.

On many of the issues of this campaign -- Social Security, Medicare, health insurance coverage, defense -- the candidates have, as they like to say, differences of opinion. By and large, though, they offer mainstream views -- differences of degree, but not of kind. On economic issues, Gore is more government-oriented, Bush more market-oriented. On taxes, Bush wants an across-the-board cut, Gore wants smaller, targeted cuts. On foreign policy, Bush places more emphasis on discerning and pursuing direct American interests, Gore stresses multilateral cooperation. But both men are internationalists and free traders.

We have our policy differences with both candidates, and on some issues we are more comfortable with Gore than Bush. If the single issue in this election were abortion, for example, we would prefer Gore, who is pro-choice. If you are a single-issue voter on this topic, Bush is not your man, even if he is more moderate and tolerant than the right wing of his party.

But this is not a single-issue election, nor is it primarily an election about the social landscape of the United States. Most Americans firmly support abortion rights. Choice is here to stay. No president can change what is in our hearts, by fiat or even by appointments to the Supreme Court.

We do see plenty to like in Bush's positions on issues. His proposal to privatize part of Social Security ought to move forward. It is the first real attempt at the national political level to move beyond the long and unproductive debate over the program's grim prospects.

Bush's education proposals have merit, too, especially his views about testing for accountability, targeting some money for primary grades and replacing low expectations with high. In Texas, Bush's administration has helped make affirmative action in college-entrance unnecessary by making it impossible to discriminate. If you have the grades, you get in.

The federal government with a Bush White House would not necessarily be a smaller government. Significantly, though, there is every reason to believe it would show more respect for the legitimate prerogatives of state and local governments -- and state and local opinions. This is federalism as it should be practiced, and it is important for Oregon, which has pursued its own course on such topics as health care for the poor and saving our rivers for native fish.

But something else goes to the heart of our preference for Bush. To be successful, the next president must be more than the sum of his views on the issues. He must have a talent for listening, setting priorities and he must be authentic.

During his tenure as governor, Bush has shown he can listen. He has been almost self-consciously bipartisan in Austin. His selection of a group of strong advisers -- Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, foreign-affairs expert Condoleezza Rice, innovative Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Montana Gov. Marc Racicot -- shows both moderation and a willingness to consider a wide range of views.

During the three national debates with Gore, Bush surprised his critics with a talent for seeing issues and questions the way voters see them. Certainly, Bush has a warmer personality than Gore, but it was more that -- time after time, Bush was able to connect with people in a low-key, effective way. That is, specifically, a leadership talent. It is, specifically, a talent Gore lacks.

Gore is not dishonorable or a liar, as Republicans have tried to portray him. Dishonorable men do not set aside privilege and access to enlist as private soldiers in unpopular wars, as Gore did in Vietnam. They do not marry their high-school sweethearts, undertake 30 years of consuming public life and emerge intact, married, and a beloved father, grandfather and friend.

And Bush is not stupid. Dull men do not achieve what Bush has achieved in Texas. They do not reverse their political party's decades-long callousness toward the poor and people of color, as Bush has done.

Indisputably, Bush won votes during the televised debates, even as Gore won debating points. Voters recognize that there is more to the job than knowing the details of every bill in Congress. Sometimes it's more important to see a broader picture and show the ability to reconcile people who disagree sharply.

Neither candidate in this campaign has captured the public imagination the way a Roosevelt, Kennedy or Reagan might. But on a range of topics, and in a variety of ways, we think Bush has shown he has the intellect, character, fortitude and talent to be a better president.

Not so much on the "leap of faith" endorsements for the O.