Jewish World Review July 23, 2002 / 14 Menachem-Av, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It would be enough that it's an off-year election.
It would be enough that voters increasingly want divided government because they, correctly, distrust both of the political parties.
It would be enough that every issue now in play is a Democratic issue - health care, campaign finance, environment, Medicare, drug prices and Social Security.
It would be enough that the Democrats have skillfully hugged Bush on the war on terror so no Republican can credibly make the case that we need a GOP Congress to back him up in confronting terror.
But the final nail in the coming Democratic victory in 2002 is the emergence of the quintessential liberal issue: corporate malfeasance in big business. One hundred years of history have taught voters that when labor unions screw up, you blame the Democrats - and when big business does, you go after the Republicans.
Never mind that Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has gotten rich and then richer by manipulating his Global Crossing holdings.
Never mind that McAuliffe's predecessor at the DNC, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, did backflips throughout the '90s to protect Arthur Andersen and the accounting industry from effective regulation and oversight.
Forget the merits. Corporate fraud is the Democrats' ultimate issue, and it will help them win big in November, unless . . . . . . George W. Bush uses the power of the presidency to change the subject.
The president can't always win a national debate. Right now, for example, his efforts to deflect blame for the actions of his friends in big business are futile. But a president can always change the subject. His ability to determine the national agenda is almost absolute.
It borders between impolite and not politically correct to say so, but there is only one way that President Bush and the Republicans can retain control of Congress. That is to ratchet up their efforts to force an invasion of Iraq and bring to an end Saddam Hussein's efforts to acquire the bomb.
It wouldn't be wagging the dog to begin to send troops to the region to prepare for an invasion. Bush plans to attack Iraq anyway. He has had to wait (a) because the military needed to replenish its supplies after the Afghan battle, (b) to let the United Nations negotiate on arms inspectors with Saddam and (c) for the hot Iraqi summer to pass.
All done now, or nearly.
If the president begins the process of moving against Iraq before the election, the Democrats can only gnash their teeth in silence. If they hit Bush, claiming he is acting for political reasons, they know that they will thereby open the door for the GOP to charge a lack of support for the war on terror and use it as an issue in the '02 elections. They will have to watch impotently as Bush steals their victory from them.
Bush may believe that his high approval ratings will let him control the Congress if only he gets out and campaigns for his candidates. But his ratings stem from his actions in the war on terror, and Democratic support of his policies have robbed them of their political relevance to the '02 contests.
He may feel that the GOP has an edge in each of the individual races, but that micro approach ignores the existence of trend as the deciding factor in recent off-year elections: A national trend dictated the results in the off-year contests of 1986 and '94, though not in the off-year clashes of '90 and '98.
But the current constellation of national issues makes an anti-GOP trend most likely. Bush needs to act now to bring Iraq to the top of the nation's agenda, if only to displace corporate fraud as the issue that moves voters as they cast their ballots.
If he does not, he will have to put up with a Democratic Congress, likely for the rest of his tenure in office,
not a pretty prospect - as his predecessor found out.
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