Jewish World Review Sept. 9, 2002 / 3 Tishrei, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The two missing towers of the World Trade Center will cast their shadow over the fall campaign for the mid-term Congressional elections. Then, as the days shorten and November approaches, the other shadow - that cast by the impending U.S. military action in Iraq - will make its impact felt.
Together, these shadows may blot out the light of every other issue our nation faces and rivet attention on the one aspect of President Bush's record which commands overwhelming majority support.
Bush was smart to announce that he will seek Congressional authorization to attack Iraq. Pressing a vote will force every incumbent and each candidate to record his or her views on Iraq and will put the issue front and center where the Republican Party needs it to be on Election Day.
Not since the 1962 Congressional contests, weeks after the Cuban Missile Crisis, have dramatic foreign and military events combined to influence so decisively a mid-term contest and, potentially, to mask the normal slippage in such contests for the incumbent party.
Polls show that only one issue works in Bush's favor: terrorism. On the environmental, global warming, prescription drug plans for the elderly, the right of HMO patients to sue in court, campaign-finance reform, corporate oversight and every other major public question, Americans back the approaches preferred by the Democrats. Only on education and tax cuts (both already passed) has Bush the makings of a national majority.
Normally, this matrix of issues would foretell disaster for Bush and his party.
But the 2002 elections are unlike any in 40 years. They will come right after a national period of mourning and renewed dread grips the nation in the searing emotional aftermath of the first anniversary of its baptism into the brave new world.
All Americans understand how well Bush has performed since 9/11. If anyone had predicted on that day that there would not be another major successful terrorist strike against either a foreign or a domestic American target in the ensuing 12 months, he would have been considered delusional. It is a magnificent tribute to the U.S. military, the FBI, the CIA, the INS and, ultimately, to the president that we have lived the past year in safety, even if frequently in fear.
Nor is the political clout of the 9/11 anniversary likely to fade as it recedes into the past. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair will increasingly have to make the case for action against Saddam Hussein.
As evidence mounts of Iraqi development of nuclear weapons, chemical and biological warheads, and missile delivery systems, the logic of attack will become irrefutable and the understanding of the need for invasion will grip the American psyche. Talk of whether Bush will go to war and wag the dog before Election Day misses the point. He doesn't need to wag the dog. He just needs to talk about wagging it to make the impact to keep control of Congress.
When the nation looks back on 9/11 and ahead to a war in the sands of the Middle East, issues like a patients' bill of rights and prescription-drug benefits will fade to obscurity.
Even the corporate-responsibility scandals that seemed so
dominant in the spring and early summer will not be able to
compete with the draconian challenges we have survived
and those we yet face. The president always has the power
to control the subject of the national debate. As Bush uses
this power to focus on the dangers Saddam Hussein poses
for the U.S. and for Israel, what other issues will really
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