George W. Bush will be our 43rd president, having squeaked by on the thinnest of margins: a handful of undimpled votes in the state of Florida, two votes in the Electoral College and one vote in the United States Supreme Court. Now, he is getting a lot of advice on how to reach out to the left and compromise his way through the next four years.
In the comic strip “Peanuts,” time and time again, Lucy would offer to hold the football for Charlie Brown to kick, only to pull that ball right out from under him just before his toe made contact, leaving poor Charlie flat on his back. He never learned.
In our real life saga, we have Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt making a similar offer to the president-elect with Jesse Jackson and his friends in the media urging him on. Will Mr. Bush be able to resist the temptation to set aside the promises he made during the campaign in order to get along with the radical left who are just waiting for a chance to pull the ball of opportunity out from under him?
When the Texas governor makes the trip to Capitol Hill this week for courtesy calls on the president, vice-president and the leaders of Congress, he would do well to spend a little time with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) for a lesson in survival tactics.
When Dr. Bartlett was elected to represent the 6th District of Maryland, he broke a Democratic stronghold that had existed there for the better part of half a century. Furthermore, he did it in the year this nation first elected Bill Clinton president. This surprised everyone, especially members of his own party.
In fact, Roscoe Bartlett’s election to Congress was so unlikely he has been dubbed the “accidental congressman.” To fully understand what happened, it is necessary to go back to the fall of 1991 when Tom Hattery challenged Rep. Beverly Byron, a seven-term Democrat incumbent, in the primary. Byron was a moderate by Democrat standards and had been a source of irritation to the liberal leaders in the party who quickly abandoned her. As a result, she was defeated, leaving this suddenly “open” seat uncontested in the general election.
Now it is one thing for the Republican Party not to field a candidate against an incumbent in a Democrat district, but not to field a candidate for an open seat was unthinkable. A Republican had to be recruited to run just to show that the party was alive and not on life support. He didn’t have to win. All he had to do was show up at a few candidate forums and allow his name to be printed on the ballot.
Dr. Roscoe Bartlett was selected to be the sacrificial lamb. He was not a political animal but had an impressive resume. With a Ph.D. in physiology, he had distinguished himself as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health and the Navy’s School of Aviation Medicine. Furthermore, he was one of the area’s distinguished citizens, having purchased a 144-acre dairy farm in Frederick County in 1961 while working at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory as director of the research group in space life sciences.
At 66, Dr. Bartlett had no political ambitions, but he took his job as a candidate as seriously as he had every other job he had tackled. A devout Seventh-day Adventist, he did not apologize for his faith or his strong stand on moral issues. Instead, he made the case for his conservative values and, to almost everyone’s surprise, 54% of the voters in Frederick, Westminster, Frostburg, Hagerstown and the surrounding area decided to give him a chance to represent them in the United States Congress.
In 1992, it was not exactly a landslide victory. However, Dr. Bartlett managed to survive in this Democratic district and on November 7, 2000, he overwhelmingly was elected for a fifth term by a 22% margin.
How did he do it? By playing it safe, taking a pass on the hard issues and clinging to the middle of the road? Hardly! He did it by remaining true to his principles. In fact, he was one of only 28 House Republicans to earn a 100% rating by the American Conservative Union. He also has a perfect pro-life voting record.
Dr. Bartlett had nothing to prove and nothing to gain by serving in Congress. His accomplishments are widely recognized. His inventions have added greatly to our present way of life. Among his many patients are those for rebreathing equipment, which are critical components of the equipment that supplies oxygen to astronauts, pilots and fire/rescue personnel.
Success did not come easily to Bartlett. He was born during the Great Depression. His father supported the family by working as a tenant farmer. His mother made clothes for the family from feed sacks. Despite the hardships, his father refused to take any government assistance. It was a powerful example.
Dr. Bartlett went to Washington for all the right reasons, to serve rather than be served. In fact, he donates a hefty portion of his congressional salary to scholarships for undergraduate students at the ten colleges in his district.
After eight years in the House of Representatives, he maintains, “I’m not interested in politics. I’m interested in my country.” His record speaks for itself. Dr. Bartlett is not afraid to be politically incorrect or stand against his party when necessary. He carries a copy of the Constitution, including the entire Bill of Rights, to help in crafting national policy.
His primary goals are to help restore the limited federal government envisioned and established by our nation’s founders, to maintain our national sovereignty and a strong national defense. He has worked tirelessly toward these ends. He has led a crusade to keep our troops from being placed under foreign command, to expose our erroneous “back debt” to the United Nations and to end the practice of training male and female recruits together in basic training, which has been a disaster for our military.
This year, he single-handedly derailed the efforts of the Clinton/Gore Administration to assign women to our submarines without the approval of Congress. His Military Honor and Decency Act, which ended the sale of sexually explicit materials at Department of Defense facilities, has withstood the test of time even though Mr. Clinton fought it all the way to the Supreme Court.
His most important accomplishment as a member of Congress may prove to be something that most Americans may never understand or fully appreciate. This year, he succeeded in getting a congressional commission set up to make recommendations on measures to protect our military and civilian infrastructure from the catastrophic effects of EMP (electro-magnetic pulse), the most likely form of nuclear ballistic missile attack.
In short, after successful careers as a professor, research scientist, small business owner and farmer, Dr. Bartlett has given up what should have been a well-deserved and comfortable retirement to make this country a better place for his 10 children, 11 grandchildren and for all Americans.
When asked to name his biggest disappointment of the past eight years, he said, “That’s easy. We didn’t move any closer to constitutional government and we’ve already spent so much of the projected surplus that may never materialize.”
If George W. Bush should stop by his office this week to seek his advice, what would he tell the president-elect? “I would recommend that he follow the model of the most successful president in the Twentieth Century – Ronald Reagan. Even though Reagan faced a Democrat-controlled Congress, he set clear goals and he never compromised his conservative principles.
Roscoe Bartlett not only gives that advice, he has followed it and it has served him well, even in the left-leaning state of Maryland.
Mr. Bush is talking about reaching across party lines to build a consensus for his agenda. This not only is desirable, it is necessary. However, during this process, he must never fail to keep his eye on the ball.
President Reagan kept a little sign on his desk as a constant reminder. It said, “There is no limit to what you can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Yes, Mr. President-elect, allow Mr. Daschle and Mr. Gephardt to take the credit for moving your ball down the field. Just make sure you’re headed toward the right goal line.