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Jewish World Review Sept. 9, 2002 / 3 Tishrei, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Twin shadows of
Election '02 | 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 matter?

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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.


09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
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