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Jewish World Review July 3, 2002 / 23 Tamuz, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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The DNA war for Bush's soul | As Bush became president, I turned to America's best Republican political consultant, Charlie Black, for a line on our new leader. "Always remember," Black told me, "that he's his mother's son."

Mother's son or Father's boy? The conflict between Bush's maternal and paternal DNA seems almost to define the zigs and zags of his presidency and the political ups and downs which they trigger. When Bush is his mother's son, his instinctive, unequivocal focus on right and wrong endears him to America. But when his father's DNA takes over, a more cautious president emerges, blown to and fro by advisors, anxious to form diplomatic coalitions, sensitive to the nuances of diplomacy even at the price of moral clarity.

There are some who attribute the alternation between Bush The Cautious Diplomat and Bush the Moral Avenger to shifting influence of Secretary of State Colin Powell or of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But the media always gets it wrong. It over-emphasizes the conflicts among staff in an Administration because it has more access to the hired help than it does to the main man. The true conflicts are not waged among advisors or Cabinet secretaries, they rage, rather, in the mind of the president himself as he balances priorities and sorts out his will.

The two strains in Bush's personality are evident as we trace back the president's public life. Candidate Bush's repudiation of the Republican dogma that the federal government had no place in education policy and his demand for a compassionate strain in GOP ideology clearly echoed the almost impetuous moral clarity that America so loved in his mother. But when Bush lost the New Hampshire primary to Senator John McCain and shrunk back behind the shelter of party orthodoxy to rebound in South Carolina, it was his father's heritage that seemed to predominate.

In the early days of his presidency, as Bush retreated on environmental issues like arsenic in water, carbon dioxide in the air, and the Kyoto treaty on global warming, he seemed to be following his father's well worn path to a one term presidency. Elected with fewer popular votes than Gore, he seemed to define the limits of his popularity with a series of unpalatable concessions to polluters and industry.

But on 9-11, his Mother's genes took over. Boldly emerging in a time of national worry, anxiety, and confusion, he summoned the nation with a clarion call for war against global terror. Rejecting the more narrow approach of only finding and punishing the guilty, he vowed to eliminate a technique of warfare, just as poison gas and nuclear war had been proscribed in the previous century. With a clarity, confidence, and sureness that belied his earlier image, he attacked the Talliban in its Afghan lair and toppled one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

But then, the moral ambiguity and diplomatic caution more typical of his father seemed to hold sway as he entered the quagmire of the Middle East without a moral compass. When Bush seemed to equate Israeli retaliation with Palestinian provocation and differentiated between Israel's right to strike back at terror and our own, he lost the moral clarity which had so animated him after 9-11. Stressing harmony over justice and cessation of hostilities over the pursuit of righteousness, he seemed to lose his way as he groped toward the settlement that had befuddled forty years of presidents. Buffeted by European demands for a greater American role in restraining Israel, he heeded the demands of Euro-skeptics whose latent anti-Semitism has never been far from the surface.

Then Bush denounced Arafat clearly and boldly, once again seizing the lead in the Middle East and lending his policy the moral clarity that makes it so attractive. Moma was back!!

Will Bush attack Iraq and finish the job his father left undone? Or will an over concern for European sensibilities rob him of the decisive action America craves and the world needs? Whose DNA will prevail?

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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.


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

© 2001, Dick Morris