A Bush-Meese Ticket Will Put The Sleaze Factor to Work
THE announced resignation of Attorney General Edwin Meese III Tuesday was seen by many people as an attempt by Meese and the Reagan Administration to minimize the so-called "sleaze factor" before it damages the presidential aspirations of Vice President George Bush.
During his five years as the head of the Justice Department, Meese has been implicated in more scandals than a soap opera starlet. By resigning, some have written, Meese will make the Reagan Administration--and Bush--look a lot less corrupt.
But Bush shouldn't look it that way. He didn't lose an albatross, he gained a running mate.
Meese resigned, freeing himself up to bear the responsibilities of being George Bush's running mate. And if Bush offers him a spot on the ticket, the Republicans will overwhelm Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and whomever he names as his running mate in the November election.
You don't believe it? Meese is too sleazy a character to be elected to such a high office, you say? Well, sleaze may get a bad rap in the media, but it has worked as an effective campaign tool over the past few years.
RONALD Reagan has been one of the most popular presidents in history. His general election victories over Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Walter Mondale in 1984 were both by very large margins. And during his eight years at the helm, President Reagan has associated with more crooks than Frank Sinatra.
Can you name all the people who worked in the Reagan Administration and were indicted or left office under a cloud of suspicion? The list contains more shady characters than a shadow boxing tournament. Michael Deaver. Lyn Nofziger. James Watt (remember him?). Oliver North. John Poindexter. Rita Lavelle. And on, and on, and on...
Yet, Reagan retains his popularity, despite the scandals and the crooks and the controversies. Reagan's popularity is partly because of his conservatism--instead of wasting all his scandals at once, he has conserved them and spread them out over an eight-year span.
It seems that in the 1980s, the era of insider trading, the people want scandal and corruption. Especially from their elected and appointed officials.
Gary Hart and Joe Biden made tremendous mistakes dropping out of the race after their scandals were revealed. If they had stayed in the race they would have jumped right to the top of the polls.
And when Hart re-entered the race, he used the wrong strategy--denying his sleaziness rather than boasting about it. Millions of American men would have voted for a man who admitted he slept with Donna Rice.
The one campaign which used the sleaze factor to its fullest potential was Bush's. Instead of hurting him, the Reagan Administration's corruption may have actually carried Bush to the nomination over relatively filth-free candidates like Bob Dole and Jack Kemp. After all, if you're under a cloud of suspicion, you miss out on taking on Dan Rather. Is it surprising that the last Republican candidate besides Bush was Pat Robertson?
NOW, Bush is considering a number of possible running mates. Several factors--geography, ideology, personality--must be taken into account when Bush considers his potential Veep, but the overriding characteristic that Bush needs in a running mate is corruption.
For most of his political career, Bush has been remarkably free from personal scandal. He's held high-level posts with the potential for incredible corruption--he headed the CIA. But there is no public record of impropriety for him. Even rumors of an extra-marital affair involving Bush have come to nothing. Where's the Miami Herald when you need it?
If he keeps this up, he doesn't stand a chance of becoming president.
Unless he takes advantage of Meese's reputation.
Meese would be perfect as Bush's running mate. Geographically, Meese is from California while Bush is from everywhere else. Ideologically, Meese will be attractive to the hard-core right wing maniacs while Bush can appeal to moderates. Physically, Bush is skinny while Meese is a little chubby. Together they make a perfectly balanced ticket.
And Meese can certainly provide the sleaziness to the ticket that Bush lacks. The attorney general has one of the more notable reputations for shadiness in the history of American government. And Meese got his reputation for sleaze the old fashioned way--he earned it.
A Bush-Meese ticket would be unstoppable. Dukakis would need someone unbelievably sleazy to be his running mate to even compete with Meese.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, they don't seem to have anyone sleazy enough for the job.