Bush: Highway to the danger zone?
One of life's rites of passage is the horror of breaking out of your comfort zone, like moving out of Mom and Dad's house and into your dorm.
If George W. Bush Jr. wants to move out of his cushy governor's mansion and into the White House, he must break out of his Texas comfort zone and face the harsh reality of running on the Republican ticket.
So far, Bush has had the luxury of living in his moderate Republican haven in Texas. For Bush, Texas is sort of like the huge basement bedroom that your parents finally agree to give you, the domain you can design and control so it becomes your own.
But imagine suddenly, after graduation, being thrown out of your cushy bedroom and thrust into a cramped dorm with roommates - other people living too close for comfort with whom you must share your space.
If Bush leaves his Texas comfort zone and tries to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he will have to deal with a whole gang of Republican roommates inside the Beltway. Many of them may not like his style and resort to legislative hazing. It will be like pledging a fraternity the first week of freshman year.
In Texas, Bush has a nice buffer zone. He is largely detached from the Party of Impeachment, the Morality Pushers, the Republicans in Washington that have earned their party its extremist stigma. He has the luxury of being a moderate Republican, and he is popular for the reputation he has built for himself. Most significantly, Bush has clinched a key portion of the electorate: Hispanics.
Bush will soon realize that most Washington Republicans do not speak Spanish.
He will realize that to run on the GOP ticket, he will have to sacrifice some of the moderate image that has made him so popular.
First of all, he will have to start answering questions - in English. Big issues loom ahead in the area of foreign policy (as of yet, we do not know if Bush knows what foreign policy is), and even more significant, abortion. Since the next president will be appointing three new Supreme Court Justices, Bush's stance on abortion will be critical.
Also, Bush will have to continue playing the primary game. He is forced to compete with far-righters like Pat Buchanan and Alan Keyes, who, luckily for Bush, have about as good a chance of winning the GOP Primary as Alpha Chi Omega has of getting out of the hole.
But pro-life activist Gary Bauer is, surprisingly, a viable threat. After coming in third at the Iowa Straw Poll, Bauer has proven that Bush will have to push his platform further to the right in order to sway Bauer's supporters.
Even more bad news for Bush is that Bauer has helped make abortion an even more pressing issue for this election. Bauer wouldn't have a chance of winning the general election, but within his party he has capitalized off of his staunch pro-life position. Bush's elusiveness on the issue may eventually force much of his party to vote against him.
And of course there are the personal character questions - did he smoke crack? Did he sleep around? Clinton may have lowered the bar on both of these issues, but Bush will still have to face them. (Though Clinton and Bush belong to different parties, both came of age in the baby boom generation which gives them more similarities than Republicans will dare to admit.)
Clearly, on his path to the presidency Bush will realize that running on the GOP ticket has dire consequences for the comfortable image he has carved for himself in Texas.
His GOP Congressional "roommates" in Washington will make it tough. While they do not constitute the mainstream of the Republican party, the far-right have built a powerful fraternity for themselves inside the Beltway. As the questions become more pressing and the primary nears, Hell Week for the White House Rush may force Bush to stay put in his Texas comfort zone.