Texas Gov. George W. Bush yesterday defended his inability to name four foreign leaders in a pop quiz, saying Americans will elect a president based on more fundamental attributes.
"America understands that a guy doesn't know the name of every single foreign leader," said Bush, the Republican presidential front-runner, in a taped interview aired on ABC's "This Week." "People are making their choice based upon judgment, based upon vision, based upon philosophy."
Vice President Gore and other rivals have attacked Bush, who holds an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a master's from Harvard Business School, for being deficient in basic knowledge of foreign policy. Bush yesterday described such criticism as "old-style Washington politics. . . . They like to campaign, belittling the other person. I like to take my time, when I talk to a fellow like you, talking about what I want to do . . . as president."
In the taped interview with ABC's Sam Donaldson, Bush added, "I fully concede people can trick me, trip me up with questions."
Bush's problem stemmed from an interview with a Boston television station last week in which he was asked to name the leaders of four "hot spots." He got the last name of one, Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui, but failed to identify the leaders of Chechnya, India or Pakistan. There also were concerns that, in one answer, he seemed to endorse the overthrow of Pakistan's democratically elected government.
"Of course not. No, no, no, no, no, no," Bush responded. "I echoed the sentiments, by the way, of members of the Clinton administration, that were optimistic that the current general who has taken over Pakistan was going to bring stability to the region."
The Democrats' front-running campaign, meanwhile, was sorting out its own controversy. Feminist author Naomi Wolf surfaced--also on "This Week"--to correct what she called public misimpressions about her role as an adviser to Gore. The political world has been stirred up over reports that she has given high-priced guidance to Gore on how to move up from beta to alpha male, and that she suggested he could attract more women voters by wearing "earth tones."
She raised the alpha-beta issue in passing as an "obvious political point" that has since been "misinterpreted," Wolf said. As for Gore's choice of attire, she said, "I am not a fashion consultant. . . . I talk primarily about the voices that I hear from women" on the difficulties of being good parents and good workers, the feeling that they are stretched too thin.
Regarding her fee of $15,000 a month (now cut to $5,000), she said, "As a professional woman, I make no apologies for earning a professional salary. . . . I took a cut in pay to work for Al Gore."
Ironically, some of the most outraged reactions to Wolf's generous pay have come from other female political activists allied with Gore, Time magazine reports. For months, Gore campaign officials had been telling these advocates there was no money for outreach to women voters. As part of the campaign's damage control effort, it plans to bring back pollster Celinda Lake, a popular specialist on the women's vote who was hired earlier but sidelined.