Robert D. Novak is perhaps the most widely seen conservative commentator in the United States, appearing regularly on three
separate CNN "talking heads" programs as well as writing the syndicated "Inside Report" column. So when he puts forth his opinion on the Republican Party's chances for success in the 2000 elections, every member of the GOP--and more than a few of their ideological adversaries--will hear him out carefully.
Having failed to achieve their goals after seizing both houses of Congress in the 1994 "Republican Revolution," Novak writes in Completing the Revolution, the GOP has been reduced to trying to counter the spin from Bill Clinton's White House. "The Republican Congress should have been courageously advancing the Republican agenda and should not have been afraid of it," he argues. "But they're not playing to win; they're playing not to lose." Whereas most analysts view Clinton's "triangulation" as shifting the Democrats' platform to the right, Novak believes that it has really enabled the White House to maneuver Republican members of Congress into voting for leftist legislation. Only by regaining control of the White House, he continues, will the GOP be able to advance its agenda.
Novak has 10 very clear ideas about how to take back the Oval Office, ranging from the obvious (radically simplify the tax code, stand firm on the anti-abortion platform) to the unusual (not only is Novak in favor of term limits, he suggests nearly quintupling the size of the House of Representatives to 2,000 members and cutting their annual salary down to about $27,000. He argues this would prevent the entrenched careerism that plagues Congress today). After outlining his strategy, Novak does a quick sketch of George W. Bush, the man the Republicans appear to have anointed as their candidate in 2000. Will he win? Only, Novak suggests, if he and his party have the courage to stick by what the Republican Party really stands for--and if they run to gain political ground, not merely hang on to what they've got. Completing the Revolution offers a compelling argument sure to get heavy play as GOP leadership figures out its game plan for the 21st century. --Ron Hogan
From Publishers Weekly
Novak strives for an ideological extreme that few but political pundits could embrace. The well-known columnist and television commentator identifies himself as "a conservative who has been on a steady trip to the right" and the Republican Party as the only available vehicle to pursue his agenda. Naturally, he approves when the party veers to the right and is critical of moderate tendencies. After excoriating perceived retreats from the Gingrich agenda of 1994, Novak lays out his prescription for conservative purity and victory with supreme confidence that the former will lead to the latter. Key points include cutting taxes and replacing the income tax with a sales tax, privatizing Social Security, considering campaign finance reform, embracing global free markets and religious conservatives, affirming the right to life, reaching out to women and minorities without compromising policy positions, pursuing a strong foreign policy and term limits. Although Novak believes that capturing the presidency is crucial, his discussion of the upcoming nomination is restrained. He recognizes that George W. Bush meets certain criteria, but he does not look too closely (perhaps to avoid glimpsing that Bush is a pragmatic rather than ideological conservative). The normally highly opinionated Novak suggests only that a Bush nomination would be a "gamble" that may or may not pay off. Despite the tension between Novak's policy rhetoric and his lukewarm endorsement of Bush, his fans will enjoy what is otherwise a strident performance.
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