George W. Bush -- the anointed one, the well-financed one, the silent one -- has finally emerged from his info-bunker and issued four campaign spots that outline his agenda for America.
"We should make this solemn commitment that every child be educated," he declares. And that's not all. The prohibitive favorite for the Republican presidential nomination also comes out foursquare for a stronger military and protecting our senior citizens.
Which is like coming out for photosynthesis. It's not all that contentious an issue.
Or is there some weaken-the-military/harm-seniors wing of the GOP we aren't aware of?
All right, so when he says he wants to cut tax rates and foster economic growth, he isn't exactly charting a radical course for change. But no surprise there. Bush has spent two years assiduously avoiding any media encounter that would require him to reveal what he thinks about anything, lest some ill-measured statement create antipathy, or controversy or (God forbid) expectations.
The political world has thus been on the edge of its seat to know what the Ideal Candidate actually stands for.
And the political world will have to wait a little longer.
Part of the genius of this introductory barrage from Maverick Media, Austin, Texas, is that it manages to portray George W. in a most flattering light, describing a vaguely positive vision, without actually saying anything.
For those paying enough attention to read between the lines, in one spot he says he supports a budget surplus dividend "once priorities are funded" (read, "Never"). And on schools, he says he's for "charters and choice" (read, "vouchers"). Everything else is utterly uncontroversial.
But mostly people won't be reading between the lines. They'll be reading him. And they will, at least at first glance, like the text: a strong leader with genuine accomplishments (cut welfare rolls, cut taxes), yet one who is not so battle scarred that his idealism is no longer intact.
"I think government should do a few things and do them well," he says in one spot. And, in another expressing his distaste for negative campaigning, "I'm gonna run a campaign that is thoughtful and hopeful and very positive."
Yeah, well, hold that thought. Steve Forbes is about to attack, and we'll see how hopefully Bush responds.
Meanwhile, though, in stark contrast to Forbes -- and certainly to Al Gore -- Bush seems at ease on camera and with himself. Indeed, it is easy to see why he has been embraced as the Republican Great Electable Hope. He is the perfect package, brilliantly positioned as a "compassionate conservative" who will keep the budget balanced, but not on the backs of the underprivileged. His ads teem with the ethnically diverse, and his (courageously lower-cased!) tagline "a fresh start" is a nice way of saying "No more Oval Office fellatio."
Furthermore, in a campaign season that has already given us Al Gore juxtaposing himself with John F. Kennedy and Steve Forbes posing in the Lincoln Memorial, there was every reason to expect Bush to show himself (a la Bill Clinton with JFK) shaking hands with the sainted Ronald Reagan. Or at least with Dad. But there is no political legacy implied here nor borrowed interest attempted. Nor any needed.
These spots are unremarkable, but also unassailable. This cipher with the $40 million war chest is indeed quite a package. It remains to be see what, if