In 1943, on this day the forty-fourth Vice President of the United States William Warren ("Bill") Bradley was born in Crystal City, Missouri. An unusually active office holder selected for regional balance, ironically his executive candidacy was sharply diminished by his service in the White House. He was unfortunate to lose credibility and popularity because of the perceived failure of his bold initiatives that stirred up a hornet's nest of hostile opposition from an unusual alliance of political forces.
An article from the No Chappaquiddick by Eric Lipps in which EMK's car only almost went off that bridge on July 18, 1969.
Bill Bradley the best President we never hadAn American Hall of Fame basketball player, Rhodes scholar, and former Democratic U.S. Senator from New Jersey he campaigned for President in two separate general elections. During 1992, he challenged the Republican incumbent Jack Kemp by praising the President for his victory in the Gulf War, but expressing the view that his economic program was a "well-intentioned disaster in the making". This fired the campaign race but also meant that he had locked horns particularly with conservatives.
Ultimately he had to settle for the consolation price of the Vice Presidency which in previous years had meant a big fat zero. However Sam Nunn saw him very much as a partner, and asked him to drive forward many of the vote-winning ideas that he had campaigned for hard during the race. And so immediately after the inauguration as a "100 days" quick win, he was appointed Chair of a working group on the subject of universal health care, one of Bradley's interests while in the Senate. Appearing before a conservative group in his home state of New York, ex-President Jack Kemp denounced the idea as threatening to substitute "a social-welfare mentality" for the "free market" in health care, branding it "another tax-and-spend scheme from people who think they can run your life better than you can".
Nevertheless, Bradley's healthcare working group released its report, which called for the establishment of a so-called "single-payer" national health care system, AmeriCare, loosely modelled on that of Canada. The program was intended to cover everyone not already eligible for care under either Medicaid or Medicare. Reaction was immediate, and, from the GOP, bitterly hostile. The Bradley group's plan was denounced as "socialist medicine" before anyone among its critics had read anything but a thumbnail summary of it.
As the millennium approach a desire for change began to grow. Tennessee Senator Al Gore looked set to replace Bradley as the Democratic Party nominee, but unfortunately for him he lost a powerful backer at a vital moment. In the Senate he and former President Ted Kennedy had fallen out over the Internal Defense Administration bill proposed by Nunn-Bradley. Having seen off Gore's weakened challenge, Bradley had to face-off Arizona Senator John McCain in the general election. His maverick appeal and promise of transformative change disguised a desperate need for the GOP to succeed, forcing the boldest candidate selection choice since Barry Goldwater. After Nixon's resignation, they had only managed to occupy the White House for a single term by Jack Kemp, and that largely due to the Donna Rice Scandal destroying the Hart Administration. Observers wondered whether McCain and his straight-talking express could stir up an even more impressive hornet net's that would make Bradley's opposition look very tame indeed.
In 1923, on this day future Republican Presidential Nominee Robert Joseph ("Bob") Dole was born in Russell, Kansas. Despite a fine public speaking career in the Senate, he floundered badly on presentation with a series of mis-steps throughout the 1984 race. This campaign failure enabled the Democratic Party to occupy the White House for a further four years after Ted Kennedy's two terms of office. An article from the No Chappaquiddick by Eric Lipps in which EMK's car only almost went off that bridge on July 18, 1969.
Bob Dole gifts the '84 race to Gary HartThe first of two scheduled debates between the presidential contenders was held on October 7th. Focused on domestic policy, Dole asserted the need to "rein in the growth of entitlement programs", which he asserts are "sapping the initiative of Americans" and which he blamed for rising inflation, now at 9 percent annually, and for continuing federal deficits, which have run between $30 billion and $50 billion a year since 1981.
Departing briefly from the agreed-on restrictions on the debate's scope, Democratic candidate Gary Hart noted that the ongoing Iran-Iraq war had contributed to a substantial rise in the price of oil, which he asserted was the most important factor in the growth of the federal deficit. An angry Dole accused him of trying to shift the blame for deficits away from a Democratic administration, and demanded that moderator Barbara Walters of ABC rebuked Hart for "breaking the rules of debate we both agreed on in advance".. Walters admonished Hart, who avoids references to foreign affairs for the remainder of the debate. However, Dole's harsh response to his opponent's words hurt the Republican candidate with the TV audience, to whom he comes across as hot-tempered.
In the second presidential debate on October 21st, Democratic candidate Gary Hart returned to the idea that recent federal deficits and high inflation were largely the products of the ongoing Gulf war. His opponent Robert Dole responded testily: "If that's so, Senator, why hasn't your party taken more aggressive steps to end that war? Why is President Kennedy sitting on his hands while ordinary Americans find it more and more difficult to make ends meet, and why should we believe you'd do any better?". Commentators generally agreed that Dole had won this debate on points. Once again, however, his hostile tone costs him with the national audience.
The Republican national convention opened at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas on August 20th. Three days later, Dole received the party's nomination for president. In his acceptance speech, he announced he has chosen New York Rep. Jack Kemp as his running-mate. Dole's choice of Kemp was more strategic than based on personal chemistry between the two men. As a Midwesterner, Dole believed he needs Kemp as a connection to the GOP's wealthy "Eastern establishment". The choice, however, alienates the party's Western wing, which had been pushing for Bush. On November 7th Senator Gary Hart was elected President, defeating Republican opponent Senator Robert Dole of Kansas. Unbeknown to Gart, the seeds of his own destruction had been sown and he would be defeated by Kemp four years later.