The Greenville News (Greenville, SC)   Sunday, February 13, 2000

Important Saturday

State GOP voters can help Bush win Republican nomination, and the White House.

    Saturday's Republican presidential primary in our state suddenly has become extremely important after Sen. John McCain both trounced Texas Gov. George W. Bush in New Hampshire and surged in polls here and elsewhere in the nation.  A McCain win in South Carolina would seriously wound the son of the last Republican to occupy the White House.

    Bush desperately needs a victory in South Carolina.  The Greenville News thinks he deserves one because he has an appealing platform and a proven track record.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain has earned the respect and admiration of all South Carolinians because of his distinguished military record and his personal sacrifice for his country.  He is appreciated as a man of character and a genuine war hero.

    But George W. Bush offers more to Republican voters, both in terms of his stand on several issues and his authoritative experience derived from serving as chief executive of his state and a businessman in the private sector.

    The Texas governor brings into this race his solid outside-the-Beltway credentials.  He has performed admirably as a two-term governor of one of this country's largest and most diverse states.  He has a tax cut plan and other reform ideas that make him sound remarkably like the Republican Party's nominee two decades ago.

    George W. Bush makes no claim to being Ronald Reagan, but he's been sold short in this campaign.  In a one-hour interview with this newspaper's editorial board, he talked knowledgeably and in great detail about a wide variety of issues tossed his way.

    Concerning tax cuts, Bush's plan is bold for returning more dollars to overtaxed Americans.  He proposes replacing the current five-rate tax structure of 15, 28, 31, 36 and 39.6 with a new rates of 10, 15, 25 and 33.  Taxes not only would be lower, but also fairer for all working Americans.

    Bush would fund his tax cut through what he accepts as a $4 trillion surplus based on a national economic growth rate of 2.7 percent.  He's aggressively optimistic, his belief based on a persuasive claim that tax cuts could trigger even more economic growth.

    McCain's tax cut plan is more timid, and would return only about half of the tax revenue that Bush wants to give back to American workers.  McCain also proposes closing some so-called loopholes that in practice would produce unintended consequences.  One that stands out, and that has appropriately come under heavy fire, is the plan to limit the tax benefit of donations of appreciated stocks to charities or churches.

    On education reform, Bush speaks with obvious passion.  He has pushed reforms through in his own state that pumped more dollars into public schools, ended social promotions and emphasized accountability.

    In Greenville last week, he said he wanted federal education reforms that passed federal dollars back to states "with maximum flexibility and authority."  If the federal government spends money on any child, he wants "standards and results."  For example, parents of Title I students trapped in failing schools could exercise choice by using federal education dollars for another school.

    The once-crowded Republican primary field was narrowed last week to three candidates: Bush, McCain and former Reagan official Alan Keyes, who's running a distant third but serving an important role of voicing the absolute values of social conservatives.

    This newspaper recommends a vote for Bush in an open primary that will draw many independent Democrats who are denied a comparable public vote in this state for their party's nominee.  Bush is a solid conservative, he has hands-on experience in Texas and he would bring unique strengths to this fall's presidential campaign.

Reprinted by Permission of The Greenville News (Greenville, SC).  All Rights Reserved.

The Greenville News' editorial board: Steven R. Brandt (publisher), Mary E. "Beth" Padgett (editor, editorial page), Leroy Chapman (associate editor), Paul Hyde (associate editor).