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Jewish World Review March 3, 2003 / 30 Adar I, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Most Americans are baffled by President Jacques Chirac's hostility and thrilled by Prime Minister Tony Blair's support of administration policy. But few really appreciate the internal political reasons for their positions.

Chirac is a man of the right. Elected by a coalition of Gaullists and neo-Gaullists, he has always cast himself as the adversary of socialism and the apostle of free markets. But, last year, Chirac faced a novel opponent - the extreme rightist Jean Marie LePen. Having defeated Socialist Lionel Jospin in the first round of the presidential elections, he won the votes of every French man and woman to the left of Attila the Hun.

Now, by criticizing U.S. policy in Iraq, Chirac is stealing the position normally identified with his political opponents on the left. He understandably enjoys the support he got on the left in opposing LePen and would like to remain a man with friends on both sides of the political divide. When Chirac opposes American invasion of Iraq, he co-opts the issues of the left just as surely as Bill Clinton did in espousing welfare reform to steal the issues of the right.

Tony Blair, by contrast, makes his home on the left side of the United Kingdom political spectrum. As the leader of Britain's Labor Party, his opponents, the Conservatives, are far more likely to back U.S. military action against Iraq than are the members of his own party.

Blair has made a political career out of triangulating. He proved himself to British voters a decade ago by taming the left wing labor unions that dominated his party and, indeed, had given it their name. His tough stands against crime and support for tougher standards for schools closely paralleled the positions Clinton took in the United States to appeal to swing voters.

But Blair has never faced a more classic confrontation between the left and the right than he does at the moment. By decisively siding with his Conservative opponents, Blair is gambling that he can defang the Tories and win their supporters.

When Blair backs the demands of the right for tough measures against Saddam Hussein and Chirac supports the most left wing of his constituents by opposing American plans, each acquires political supporters who come straight from the base of their political opponents.

Blair is now facing a drop in his popularity stemming from his backing for Bush. But, in the British parliamentary system, he is confident that his party colleagues won't rebel over Iraq. To overturn Blair on this issue would cost them their majority and lead to new elections with a divided Labor Party.

For his part, Chirac is accustomed to asserting a Gaullist independence from American policy. But to make the case from the left is unusual for him. Typically Gaullist policies echoed the conservative views of Charles de Gaulle's political base - advocating independent French nuclear weaponry and backing strong policies abroad. Now, suddenly Chirac switches sides and comes from the left to attack Bush policies in the Middle East.

Chirac has always clung to a majority by the skin of his political teeth. Before Jospin finished in third place and lost the chance to face the Gaullist in the runoff, he and Chirac were neck-and-neck in the opinion polls in a prospective second round. Now, by battling for the left against his traditional allies on the right, Chirac may acquire a traction among socialists and liberals that he has thus far lacked.

Whether Chirac's opposition to American policies or Blair's support plays well or badly abroad, each man's position is rooted in his own domestic political needs, just like the politicians they are.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.

Up

02/27/03: Invasion? More like a coup
02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
01/13/03: The new swing voter
01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2002, Dick Morris