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
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 Johns 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 percent 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 Nov. 7,
2000, he overwhelmingly was elected for a fifth term by a 22 percent
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 percent 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 patents
are those for rebreathing equipment, which are critical components of
the equipment that supplies oxygen to astronauts, pilots and fire/rescue
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
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 20th century
– Ronald Reagan. Even though Reagan faced a Democrat-controlled
Congress, he set clear goals and he never compromised his conservative
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
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.