In his steady march back to “compassionate conservatism,” George W. Bush has proposed federal expenditures center and left — at least $13 billion in fresh social and educational projects, for example. This spending spree hardly wows conservative and free-market activists. To inspire these cornerstones of his base — without whom he cannot win — Bush must prove that he actually thinks as they do.
Bush’s clearest signal also could be his smartest political move — namely, choosing California’s Chris Cox as his running mate. Congressman Cox is brainy, telegenic, and distinctly unflappable. He is a 47-year-old conservative, a Catholic, and a former Reagan White House lawyer from suburban Orange County who nevertheless enjoys the near-universal respect among the press corps.
As Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee — an internal think tank of the House GOP — Cox has been a House leadership member since 1995. Cox speaks Russian and is an authority on technology matters and an energetic foe of Internet taxation. As chairman of an unprecedentedly unanimous bipartisan panel that documented technology leaks to — and espionage by — Red China, he is uniquely qualified to call Al Gore a walking Oriental Express Card.
Chris Cox also can help make George Bush sufficiently competitive in California to scare the Gore campaign while mobilizing enough of the Golden State’s conservative stalwarts to help save five at-risk Republican House seats.
The industrious Rep. Cox adds his own footnotes — without staff assistance — to legislative reports. He even dictates his own speeches to a palm-held device that converts his words to print. Most important, he’s both philosophically sound and broadly knowledgeable enough that he readily could step into the Oval Office should his boss be unable to perform his duties.
While answering our questions earlier this month in a Capitol office hideaway, Rep. Cox amply demonstrated his ability to advocate conservative positions in common-sense terms understandable to any American.
On government spending: “An economic rule ought to be to make hay while the sun shines. The federal government ought to run on the cheap in good times, because there’s less need for governmental assistance,” Cox said. “Every government program is cheaper to operate when more people are working and paying taxes. Instead of growth in federal spending, we should be leveling it off and paring it back. But President Clinton is now proposing 50 new programs in his budget, including several new entitlements,” Cox added. “If and when the economy takes a downturn, though, then all of the transfer-payment programs will explode out of control — because instead of building in discipline, we’re piling on benefits. That’s a very dangerous thing for the country.”
On national security: “The Democratic Party during the Clinton years has continued to indulge in wishful thinking on security policy — as is obvious from its approach to North Korea, for example. North Korea didn’t receive a penny of foreign aid from the presidencies of Eisenhower through Bush, but under the Clinton Administration, Kim Jong-Il is the number-one recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the Asia-Pacific region. That period of aid has coincided directly with Kim Jong-Il’s development of a three-stage missile and continuing progress on the physics of a nuclear bomb. “This is a regime that is more Stalinist than the Soviet Union under Stalin,” Cox continued. “Yet the Democratic approach is that if you are nice to other people around the world, they will respond in kind. But the world just doesn’t work that way.”
Regarding the Kremlin — which he visited at the request of the House Speaker shortly before this interview — Cox said: “We keep giving more money to the Russian government, through the International Monetary Fund, when the government and the IMF have been counterproductive, at best, to economic reform there. Instead of sending money from government to government, which in turn is made directly available to their corrupt oligarchs, it’s time to stop subsidizing what is going wrong there.
“Russia still needs a workable system of mortgage finance. In the 21st century, the number-one source of start-up capital for our businesses in America is the mortgage. We need to help Russia set up the same kind of system.”
Chairman Cox also rationally explains the problems with the Clinton-Gore China policy, the need for comprehensive Social Security reform and (listen up, George W.!) the reasons why a thinking GOP ticket can carry California.
In short, this man knows his stuff. Chris Cox has not only the right stuff, but the Right’s stuff, to be an excellent candidate for Vice President of the United States.
— Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution. Quin Hillyer is an editorial writer and columnist for the Mobile Register.