Right leads assault on Bush

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The Independent Online
THE right wing of the Republican Party remains in open revolt against George Bush, despite clear signals that he has no intention of abandoning his re-election campaign. Emboldened by the President's shaky public performances and his long slump in the polls, conservative activists and commentators pummelled Mr Bush at the weekend in terms reminiscent of the Democratic left's self-destructive savaging of Jimmy Carter in 1980.

There are two weeks before the Republican National Convention, in Houston, which will re-nominate President Bush and try to present a united and confident face to the nation. But the President remains under more virulent - and personally vicious - attack from his own right wing than from the Democratic nominee, Governor Bill Clinton.

Burton Pines, an influential conservative activist, told CBS television yesterday that he accepted that President Bush would ignore the drum-beat of calls in the last week for him to stand down. But Mr Pines said grassroots conservative activists would not work for a Bush victory this autumn. 'We're going to hold our noses, choke down our bile and vote for him, but nobody's going to work for him,' he said.

George Will, a conservative columnist who first reported, last week, subterranean right-wing Republican pressure on President Bush to stand aside, said every political party had a 'duty to put forth their best. How many Republicans can say that the most convincing ticket to move the party forward is Bush-Quayle? Not many.'

Mr Bush has always been distrusted by the Republican right. Conservatives now insist that US economic difficulties - America appears to be heading for the third dip of a two-year recession - should be blamed on mild tax and regulatory increases in the Bush years, not the accumulated public and private debt from the Reagan era.

A conservative Bush loyalist - a rare breed at present - Governor Carroll Campbell of South Carolina, told CBS yesterday that it was time for Republicans to 'stop cannibalising themselves' and turn on Mr Clinton. But it seems much of the Republican right would rather lose this year than return Mr Bush to power.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have problems, albeit happier ones, of their own. The Clinton campaign, having fought from February to June not to be swamped by adversity, is struggling not to be capsized by success.

Despite - or partly because of - Governor Clinton's huge opinion-poll lead, his campaign is making an uneasy adjustment from the primary to the general election season. The problem - one which Michael Dukakis never properly overcame in 1988 - is how to incorporate the diffuse energy and resources of the national Democratic apparatus into the lean machine constructed for the primary season.

One Democratic official said this was a trick equivalent to 'reconstructing a fighter plane into a jumbo jet'. Mr Clinton's modest headquarters in Little Rock admits to being overwhelmed by media inquiries and offers of help.

In particular, the Clinton campaign is anxious not to be misled by the strong summer polls into spreading its resources too thinly across the nation in the autumn. With the Clinton-Gore ticket running ahead of Bush and Quayle in practically every state in the nation, Little Rock is being besieged by invitations from local politicians, hoping for a boost in their own congressional or state races.

Leading article, page 16

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