FROM THE STOOL

THE COLD WARRIOR'S RETURN

Bush loyalists, many of whom concede he is not the sharpest knife in the dishwasher, take comfort in the fact that he has surrounded himself with the best and the brightest.

Bush detractors feel much differently as the opportunity for manipulation, even well intentioned usurpation, is great when the chief doesn't have a clue. It is becoming ever more obvious that neither W's instincts nor intellect are worthy of an honorarium from Yale.

There was something comforting in Clinton's brilliance, his obvious mastery of the facts, in knowing he was smarter than any of his aides. It didn't keep him, on occasion, from getting his exercise jumping to conclusions, or from waffling when the political winds changed, but he clearly saw the world as it is, not as it was, and steered a moderate mainstream course, supported by a majority at home and by the leaders of virtually every developed nation on earth.

Cheney and Rumsfeld look back to the Reagan years and miss having the "evil empire" to justify the voracious appetite of the military industrial complex. It is much harder to sell a new generation of aircraft carriers, let alone a space-based missile defense shield, when you are the world's only superpower. The biggest risk to our security from Russia, a totally impoverished resourceless shell, is that they might feel compelled to ramp up another arms race rather than continuing to dismantle their largely obsolete nuclear arsenal.

Nothing can prevent the McVeighs from building their bombs, or the terrorist from poisoning our water.

China, with one-third of the world's people and an economy that in ten years will surpass both Japan's and ours, has less than 30 missiles and poses little real military threat to Taiwan, let alone America or its allies.

Trade between our nations has already produced a market driven political necessity for both countries to try and contain the paranoia which exists on our extreme right and their extreme left. Clinton, and W's father, understood the need for a China partnership. The old saber rattling core Bush constituency does not.

The Jeffords' defection highlights the lack of compassionate conservatism in an administration which refuses to accept that most Americans favor choice, and support both environmental protection and stronger gun controls. There is, unhappily, no room in the Ashcroft tent for the large number of loyal Republicans who are neither homophobic or interested in giving the oil interests our protected wildlife preserves.

There has never been a better time for a new young president, by all accounts a decent and well intentioned man, to reach out to the moderates in his party and in the opposition as well. A coalition could easily be built guaranteeing control of the House and an above average chance of re-election.

The cold warriors should implement policy, not make it. Why does Bush feel compelled to over serve the hard right he owns their support. NAFTA not withstanding, organized labor and the Rainbow Coalition overwhelmingly vote Democratic. It is the middle the independent the environmentalist the principled single-issue voters who decide most national elections.

George senior, after winning a war and enjoying the highest popularity rating in the history of the American presidency, fell so far out of touch with the mainstream American that he couldn't beat a confessed womanizer from Arkansas who secured the Democratic nomination because the heavyweights like Cuomo saw Bush as unbeatable.

If history repeats itself, W will continue to antagonize Russia, China and our NATO allies for no good reason, surrender too many of our environmental initiatives to big business, look for ways to clone the likes of Scalia and Thomas for future Supreme Court appointments, find an Ambassadorship for Charlton Heston before he dies, and maintain support for a party platform which calls for abolishing Roe vs. Wade.

This all but guarantees a mid-term disaster for the Republicans, and paves the way for the Democrats to recapture the White House. There was so much to learn from Newt Gingrich, but apparently no one was listening.