REP. JOHN ANDERSON (R-Ill.) both defies and despises labels. He has demonstrated a willingness unique among this crop of Republican candidates to focus on the issues, even at the cost of offending prevailing sensibilities. He embodies the characteristics of forcible but judicious leadership; he refuses to allow expediency to infringe on his principles.
Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan and arch-conservative Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-Ill.) unabashedly admit they want to emphasize spending on a military buildup over solving domestic problems. George Bush prefers to avoid issues altogether in a manner dangerously reminiscent of a president we did have to train. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) opposes the vital Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II). And former Texas Gov. John B. Connally amply showed the extent of his geopolitical understanding when he called Sadegh Ghotbzadeh "a KGB agent, or at least a Marxist," the other night.
In Iowa, Anderson stood alone among GOP candidates in supporting the grain embargo of the Soviet Union. In New Hampshire he is a maverick supporting gun control. Some may quibble about Anderson's metamorphosis from "conservative" to "liberal"; but he does not differ from other campaigners for difference's sake. His willingness to state publicly his regret that he voted in favor of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution at a time of swelling militarist sentiment provides evidence that Anderson could resist the often overwhelming temptation to military intervention. Furthermore, his many years of congressional experience offer another vital prerequisite for the office.
But above all, Anderson understands the link between foreign and domestic problems. His proposal of a 50-cent gas tax coupled with a cut in Social Security taxes indicates both intelligence and a desire to come to grips with the paramount issues of inflation and dependence on foreign oil.
In addition, Anderson has supported the Equal Rights amendment, SALT II, federal aid to the poor to offset rising energy costs, and federal aid for abortion. He has been a long-time supporter of civil rights; he has opposed development of the MX missile, the B-1 bomber, and a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.
In sharp contrast to the rehashed cliches offered by his opponents, Anderson displays his own ideas and a will to implement them. Unlike other Republicans in search of the presidential nomination, his is a voice of reason meriting attention.