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Jewish World Review July 23, 2002 / 14 Menachem-Av, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Election 2002:
Advantage Dems | 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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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.


07/19/02: 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

© 2001, Dick Morris