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Press Review: U.S. Presidential Campaign Fever

  • Don Hill



Prague, Feb. 22 (NCA/Don Hill) -- The United States has entered its long presidential campaign season to culminate in elections in November. President Bill Clinton, running for reelection, heads the Democratic Party. The opposition Republican Party is embroiled in state-by-state contests to select its nominee to stand against Clinton. Columnist and broadcaster Patrick Buchanan on Tuesday came first in the traditionally early New Hampshire primary election. His leading Republican opponents are Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander. Substantial press commentary in Great Britain and the United States concentrates on the U.S. campaigns.

The New York Times says today in an editorial: "Following Pat Buchanan's victory in New Hampshire, Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander and the congressional leadership immediately resorted to the (Republican's) rhetorical equivalent of a tactical nuclear weapon against Buchanan by labeling him an extremist.... (Buchanan) has elevated the taking of far-out positions stated in inflammatory language from an occasional tactic to a constant strategy. (He) is the most exciting stump campaigner since the 1980 Reagan race.... But Buchanan is also dangerous, both to the Republican chances of winning the White House and holding the Congress, and to the future of his party."

In an editorial yesterday, The Times commented on complaints that Republican economic proposals seek to enrich the rich at the expense of the common person. The newspaper said: "The New Hampshire campaign revealed that this year's Republican contenders have... vision problems when it comes to offering real solutions to the next generation of economic issues.... The voters... are waiting for a candidate with a plan for the economy that lifts all boats, not just the yachts."

Great Britain's The Guardian editorializes today:"(Buchanan's) chauvinist, reactionary and bigoted message is profoundly disturbing. But the question remains why, in the country which claims to embody the world's most successful economic model, so many people should feel, so inarticulately, such discontent.... That is (Buchanan's) chance -- and America's problem."

In a column today, distributed in the United States by the Knight-Ridder newspapers group, commentators Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover write: "Early prospects for a very quick and clear-cut conclusion to the competition based on a convincing sweep by Sen. Bob Dole of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary have now been erased. At least two competitors, Pat Buchanan and Lamar Alexander, are still standing on the basis of having exceeded the vote generally set as 'victory' for them.... Obviously, both organization and money are critical in this post-expectations phase of the competition."

"The New Hampshire primary traditionally has created a front-running candidate," The London Times editorializes today. "In 1996, it has failed to fulfill that role.... Three candidates (still) can fight with credibility -- Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander.... Instead of anointing a front-runner, New Hampshire has wounded one. (Dole's) candidature no longer retains its aura of inevevitability."

In a commentary distributed yesterday by Knight-Ridder, Federick L. McKissack Jr. writes: "Pat Buchanan will eventually split the party.... If Buchanan wins the Republican nomination, his far-right politics will drive voters away in droves. (He) has written that AIDS is 'nature's retribution' against homosexuals.... Other fine ideas from Buchanan -- Hitler was 'an individual of great courage;' women are less psychologically equipped to handle the business world' than men; and Jews entertain group fantasies of martyrdom. He's a rampant homophobe and xenophobe, suggesting among other things that building a 200-mile fence between the United States and Mexico would keep out 95 percent of the immigrants."

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph says today in an editorial: "(Buchanan) will not win the Republican nomination. But he has started arguments that need to happen in America. A similar opening up of the debate... needs to happen here."

In the United States, The Los Anageles Times editorialized yesterday: "Part of Buchanan's appeal is that he rightly pinpoints Americans' anxieties about job security and unease about where the country is going. The danger is that all too often he winds up assigning blame to those he considers 'the other' -- the immigrants, the homosexuals, the feminists, the media, the non-Christians, the liberals, the intellectuals, Wall Street. All these 'others' add up to a lot of Americans."

Dan Lynch commented yesterday in the U.S. newspaper Albany Times Union: "This country has been left with a frightened, bitter, demoralized workforce seething with resentment at big business and Wall Street. And Pat Buchanan is the only candidate talking about the need for employers to earn back workers' trust. He has diagnosed the illness perfectly.... His opponents will tell you that Pat Buchanan's strongest ally in this campaign is hatred. It's not, though. It's fear."

In The Boston Globe yesterday, Derrick Z. Jackson commented: "Current frontrunner Bob Dole has lately taken to calling Buchanan an extremist.... The hypocrisy in 1996 is baldly evident. Many of Dole's positions on social isues, as well as those of most of the other candidates, do not differ greatly from Buchanan's."

New York Times columnist William Safire commented yesterday that New Hampshire after Tuesday's results can be regarded no longer as a bellwether political state. He wrote: "In future, the results out of Manchester (New Hampshire) will be measured against the skewed 1996 results -- the temporary triumph of the hard-core minority, to be followed by the emergence of the party majority's electable candidate in more representative states... Bob Dole or Lamar Alexander."

And in the Los Angeles Times, Contributing Editor Robert Scheer commented yesterday: "Pat Buchanan is not a fascist, as New York Times columnist Abe Rosenthal once charged. He's not that sincere. This is no true believer, but rather a professional roiler of base passions driven by the confidence that even defeat, if loudly trumpeted, will boost his career."
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