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Jewish World Review June 5, 2003 / 5 Sivan, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Napoleon's maneuvers at Austerlitz have nothing on prez's


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | As he desperately tried to head off Bill Clinton in 1992, President George H.W. Bush could not use his best weapon — the tax issue — to defend his incumbency. Although Clinton's record of tax increases in Arkansas offered an attractive target, Bush's reversal of his 1988 campaign pledge — "read my lips — no new taxes" — left him unable to make the likelihood of a Clinton tax increase the key issue in the campaign. His failure to do so cost him the presidency.

Now, President George W. Bush has skillfully — even brilliantly — maneuvered events to the point where taxes will be front and center in the 2004 presidential contest. Oddly, it is not by his success that he accomplished that goal but rather by his failure.

Had Bush gotten the full $750 billion 10-year tax cut he originally sought, that massive achievement would have left him without an issue. What would he say in the '04 contest? "I've cut taxes by $2 trillion. Vote for me and I'll make it $2.5 trillion"? Such a line would hardly have driven the multitudes to the barricades. Even the threat that the Democrats would repeal the tax cut should they take over would be too vague and nebulous to have anchored a reelection bid.

But happily for himself, Bush didn't succeed and got less than half of his tax cut — about $350 billion. Wisely, Bush chose to front-load the half a loaf so that its stimulating effect (economically and politically) could be felt this year. Brilliantly, he gave the Democrats a sunset provision that made the tax cuts expire early in his second term.

So now, the issue on the table for the 2004 elections will be how the Democratic candidates will deal with the sunset of the tax cuts. The Democrats will have to say whether they will continue the tax cuts or terminate them. Then Bush will turn their answers around and accuse them of planning to raise taxes!

Passing a tax cut likely draws the active support of 25 to 30 percent of the voters. Canceling one already in place probably gins the number up to the high 40s or low 50s. But opposition to a tax increase, which will be the basis of the Bush campaign, gets your support up into the 70s and 80s.

The last man to try to run for president advocating a tax increase was Walter Mondale. He lost 49 states in 1984, and the "I'll raise your taxes" reputation haunted him all the way to Minnesota last year, where he lost his 50th state in the Senate election.

The Democrats no doubt are thrilled that they have "won" the numbers game by more than halving Bush's tax cut. But now Bush can have his cake and eat it, too. He pockets the votes of the 25 million people who get refunds of $400 or more in the mail this summer. He benefits from the stimulating effect of a retroactive cut in capital gains taxes, dividend taxes and taxes on earned income. And, he sets up a huge issue for himself and a challenge to the Democrats for the '04 contest.

Any Democrat who squirms on the tax-cut issue in the primaries has no chance — zero — to win the nomination. Each will have to take the "pledge" to oppose the Bush tax cuts. Thus, Bush will have succeeded in creating a situation where anyone who can win the nomination can't win the election. Democrats are not about to nominate anyone who backs the tax cut, and Americans are not going to elect anyone who favors a tax increase.

That all of this has been accomplished while letting the Democrats have their "victory" makes it so much sweeter. In the political war colleges of America, they should diagram this play like a well-fought battle students can study for generations. Napoleon's maneuvers at Austerlitz have nothing on this.

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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

06/02/03: Prez's tax-cut catch-22 for Dems
05/29/03: Liberal author documents Clinton's wasted second term
05/16/03: Early Democrat handicapping for 2004
05/14/03: Gephardt: AWOL
04/30/03: Prez can lose
04/25/03: My message to Putin: Call President Bush
04/23/03: NO OIL FOR BLOOD
04/21/03: The war that network news lost in Iraq
04/15/03: Media meltdown
04/10/03: Giving government a good name
04/03/03: Polls' message to Bush: Relax and win the war
03/31/03: Bomb as you need
03/28/03: The strong grow weak through inhibition
03/26/03: Carping pessimism of TV anchors and interviewers fails to give Americans a sense of defeatism
03/17/03: Poll: Get on with it
03/13/03: It's time for U.S. to play hardball at U.N.
03/10/03: The whole (Hispanic) world is watching
03/07/03: Anti-war errors
03/05/03: Domino theory II: Toppling Mideast despots
03/03/03: Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair
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