Back in March, not long after he dropped out of the Republican primaries for president, Steve Forbes met with George W. Bush. Forbes offered to help Bush in any and every way possible. Forbes and his conservative supporters helped squash the McCain insurrection and secure the nomination for Bush.
So why have the Bush people frozen Steve Forbes out of the convention and out of the campaign team? Ever since the McCain threat ended, the Bush campaign has totally ignored Forbes. Forbes’s gracious offer to help has never even been acknowledged. This is a mistake. Forbes is one of the great assets of the Republican party. He is the most articulate spokesman for the economic-growth agenda in the conservative movement. He has a wide-spread following among the investor class, the Internet-wired population, and large and small business leaders. Yet he will be nowhere to be seen at the convention in Philadelphia — except for a Club for Growth event that he will speak at on the last day.
By locking out Forbes — a slap in the face to those of us who supported Steve in the primaries — the Bush people, especially their economic advisers, are exercising bad judgment. How can Elizabeth Dole be asked to speak at the convention, but not Steve Forbes? Are the Bush people embarrassed by Forbes and his supporters? Are we liabilities? That wasn’t the attitude of the Bush people back in March and April.
Steve Forbes deserves a prominent role at the convention. He deserves it because — although he lost badly to Bush in the primaries — it was Steve Forbes, more than any other candidate in both 1996 and 2000, who thrust the pro-growth agenda on a Republican party that was still in the grasp of the Bob Dole austerity wing of the party. Steve Forbes was the political godfather of flat-tax cuts, of private accounts for Social Security, of Medical Savings Accounts, of educational choice for parents. Forbes is a national spokesmen for free trade and a strong dollar. Second, Forbes has the capacity to rally the Reagan supply-side wing of the party in a way that no other Republican can. Bush smartly picked Dick Cheney as veep because Cheney is second to none in his knowledge of foreign policy and national-security issues. Forbes is second to none on the prosperity issues. He’s head and shoulders above anyone that the governor has working for him now on the economy. George W. Bush needs Steve Forbes’s counsel and advice.
George W. Bush must reach out to Forbes. Why not announce that Forbes will be the chairman of his economic team? Or make it known that Forbes could be his treasury secretary or the head of his National Economics Commission (that Robert Rubin headed in Clinton’s first term). This would electrify and unite the party at what is shaping up to be an otherwise business-as-usual four days in Philadelphia. Forbes is also the culturally conservative, free-trade, pro-growth antidote to Buchananism. But if the Bush campaign continues to ignore Forbes, then Forbes’s Reaganite supporters might just sit on their hands during the upcoming campaign. Steve Forbes is a great resource. W. should put him to work.