Page 2 of 2
Still, Buchanan has his critics. At soda fountains and political rallies, one hears complaints that Buchanan says only what he is against, not what he is for. During the past week, Buchanan has tried to rectify that by spelling out a tough, conservative economic program to shake up Washington. As he explains it, Buchanan would:
* Put a two-year moratorium on new federal regulations that are hurting business.
* Freeze federal salaries, hiring, and spending programs.
* Cut the pay of the president by up to $100,000, while rolling back the recent congressional pay increase by 50 percent.
* Cut capital-gains taxes on the wealthy in half to 14 percent, while reducing the tax to zero for those in lower and middle-income brackets.
* Cut middle-class taxes and support investment tax credits for business as well as research and development credits.
Buchanan says Bush already has responded to his program. The president, for example, has come out for a 90-day moratorium on federal regulations. He has also gotten tougher on trade issues, as Buchanan demanded.
Buchanan's most important impact, however, may be the lowering of public esteem for Bush, who already is sagging in public polls. While Democrats running for president have hit Bush hard, no one has directed political fire at the president with greater elan than Buchanan.
Buchanan knows Bush well. He worked in the White House with him during President Reagan's tenure. He tells audiences here, essentially, that Bush is a man without a solid core of beliefs. As he put it in several recent conversations with voters:
"Bush's ideas are timid."
"I think that Mr. Bush is a man who became president not to do something, but to be president."
"Mr. Bush's State of the Union message ... was a total bust. It was a rag-bag of gimmicks."
"This is really a campaign ... for the heart and soul of our party. Mr. Bush ... has been the biggest spender in history.... He believes in this gauzy New World Order. He travels all over the world trying to pursue it.... We will put America first."
"Mr. Bush is a pragmatist. He's an in-box president, and he's a man who will try to take this view and that view and try to put them together into an amalgam. The problem is: What does a pragmatist do when pragmatism doesn't work? ... They tend to flounder."
Meanwhile, Buchanan has reworked Bush's tax slogan. The Buchanan version:
"Read my lips. No second term."