America First 1941/1991

Douglas Wilder made a splash in New Hampshire last August, when he devoted a pre-campaign speech to the theme of putting America first. "We cannot focus all our energies on the international arena at the expense of America's finances and economic health." Denying he is an isolationist, Wilder asked, "If jobs are going to be found, why not for Americans? If schools are going to be built, why not schools for Americans?"

In part, Wilder's patriotic rhetoric derives from the Democratic strategy of conceding Mr. Bush his foreign policy successes and scoring off his poor showing on domestic issues. But there is a growing sentiment that the Republicans want to hold on to the White House not in order to run the country but only to control the State Department. Peace in the Middle East occupied so much of their time that they have none to spare on bringing peace to Brooklyn or Los Angeles. What is left of the U.S.S.R. is important, the Republicans insist, because of its potential for world markets, but in America SAT scores continue to decline. How are these ignorant savages—that is, our children—going to compete against European children who learn math, foreign languages, and the habits of discipline?

William Bennett, upon resigning his position as Secretary of Education, declared victory in the SAT battle. Later on as "Drug Czar," he presumably licked the drug problem in the United...

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