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Jewish World Review July 12, 2002 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Dubya looking out for No. 1? | As he pondered his reaction to the corporate fraud scandals, George W. Bush had to decide whether to put his political needs ahead of his party or his party's worries first as they both geared up for the 2002 election. He decided he came first.

Bush's stern speech Tuesday sounded all the right notes of anger and revulsion at corporate greed. His address was animated by strong programmatic steps - and, one senses, his door is open wide to further measures. He sent a clear political message: "Nobody, but nobody is getting to the left of me on this issue."

But, in doing so, he took a scandal that was festering in the wings of American politics and put it squarely on center stage.

The corporate plundering of American stockholders is nothing new. The Enron scandal has raged for months and has had no more political impact than the disgusting revelations of the conduct of Catholic priests and their bishops. A few more corporate revelations would have temporarily rocked Bush's boat, but wouldn't have sunk it.

By his address, Bush has assured that corporate malfeasance is the major domestic issue of the day - the only issue this side of the Atlantic which can rival terrorism in its immediate impact. He guaranteed that the scandal would overshadow the Congressional elections.

And make no mistake: Corporate looting is as Democratic an issue as there ever was. Not only is it a Democratic issue, it is the beau ideal of Democratic issues. The kind liberals dream about.

In ratcheting up the focus on the spate of corporate revelations, Bush has done more than Daschle ever did to promote a Democratic victory in the midterm elections around the corner.

So why did Bush do it? Why did he bestow the presidential seal of approval on a scandal that might have faded with the summer sun?

One explanation is that he decided to do what is right. Clearly, his program is a good one and dramatic movement toward greater government oversight and corporate openness is long overdue. Bush might have been in his Boy Scout mode and just decided, in Al Gore's memorable phrase, to "let it rip."

But there is another, more self-serving explanation which nags at the corner of the mind of this somewhat jaded political operative: Did he decide to cut corporate America loose so that he could escape a savaging for his own possible scandal? Did the cooking he received at Monday's press conference so worry him that he decided to get out ahead of the issue by skewering his capitalist supporters?

Bush may not be home free on the Harkin Energy scandal. The SEC has cleared him. Clinton's SEC has cleared him. But the facts don't look so good in today's harsh light. He unloaded 200,000 shares of stock while he sat on the company Board of Directors and on its audit committee two months before it lost a quarter of its value.

Even worse, the stock's downturn was quite predictable to insiders. Bush and his friends must have suspected that the SEC would disallow the firm's attempts to take an improper profit on the sale of a subsidiary in 1989 to obscure the size of its operating losses. SEC or no SEC, Bush comes off looking vulnerable.

So, Bush, in an effort at damage control, came out swinging against corporate greed. It was a bit like watching Bill Clinton rant about the evils of on-the-job sexual harassment.

The net effect: Good for Bush. Bad for his party. And it's his party that's on the ballot in 2002.

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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.


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

© 2001, Dick Morris