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Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2003 / 27 Elul, 5763

Dick Morris

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Why Clark will fade


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The shocking truth about the U.S. presidential race is that the sudden and headlong collapse of President Bush's popularity has created such a vacuum that a new candidate such as retired Gen. Wesley Clark has no difficulty soaring to the top of the polls based on one week's publicity.

The most recent Newsweek survey documents both Bush's crash and Clark's rise. Bush is now down to a job-approval rating of only 51 percent. More ominously for the Republicans, in a trial heat against any Democrat (except Howard Dean), he scores below the crucial 50 percent mark. Against Al Gore and John Kerry, he gets only 48 percent, and against Clark, drops to 47 percent. When an incumbent president is below 50 percent of the vote, he is in desperate trouble. (Bush still manages 52 percent against Dean.)

Asked if Bush should be re-elected, Americans vote no by 50-44.

Equally astonishing is the sudden rise of Gen. Clark. After only a week as the media's darling, he leads the Democratic pack with 14 percent of the vote to Dean's and Joseph Lieberman's 12 percent, with Kerry at 10 percent and Dick Gephardt at 8 percent.

The key to Bush's free-fall? Only 46 percent approve of his handling of postwar Iraq, down 5 points from his ratings last week. Not only do Americans mind losing soldiers, they also worry about the cost of the occupation, with 56 percent complaining that it is too high.

Clark's rise is clearly a media-inspired flavor of the week. When Dean graced the front pages of Time and Newsweek, he was similarly honored with a first-place rating. Clark's surge is not so much a testament to his strength as to the weakness of Bush on the one hand and the Democratic field on the other.

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Clark will not wear well. His early gaffes show his inexperience. He would be a bit like a latter-day Dwight D. Eisenhower, except that nobody can quite recall what war it is that he won. The initial enthusiasm for his candidacy really came from Europe, where this general-who-opposes-war is the kind of guy only the elites of Paris can truly love. The only primary he has locked up is Democrats abroad.

But then Bill Clinton picked up the Clark banner and had his staff rally around his fellow Arkansan. Why? Hillary and Bill support confusion, chaos and consternation as their preferred strategy for Democrats in 2004. Determined that nobody but they capture the White House - or even the Democratic Party - the Clintons are opposed to anyone who gains momentum.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain pursued a policy of opposing any European nation that got too powerful, always amassing a coalition behind the weaker states to maintain the balance of power. This is precisely the Clinton posture in this election year.

In the long run, Dean's momentum will prove real and Clark's will be seen as bogus. Dean has amassed a base of grassroots (or cyber-roots) support by tapping into two groups - gays and peaceniks. His message spread among them not as a result of top-down advertising but by the new Internet style of viral, horizontal marketing. Gays and their supporters and anti-war zealots spread the word among themselves that Dean was their man.

The result was a genuine outpouring of backing from small donors and local activists.

The Dean candidacy is the first creation of the Internet age. By contrast, Clark's is perhaps the last of the media-created candidacies. Dean's support will carry him through the early primaries. He will likely score one-punch knockouts in Iowa of Gephardt, in New Hampshire of Kerry, and in South Carolina of Edwards. His three victims must win their respective primaries because they come from the state next door. Their failure to do so means the end of their candidacies.

Dean still can't beat Bush. But how far can Bush drop before we hear the splash at the bottom of the well?

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business" Comment by clicking here.

Up

09/18/03: Terror fears fade too fast
09/10/03: As Dubya sinks, Al & Hill scheme
08/25/03: Bias-mongers on rocks as viewers taste straight news
08/14/03: Arnold & Dean's political revolution
08/08/03: Hillary Clinton might not want to wait until 2008
08/06/03: Revolution
07/24/03: As Bush falters, watch Hil run
07/21/03: Peace dominoes begin to fall
07/17/03: Let's hear the good news
07/14/03: Sending troops to Liberia could be a bridge too far
07/10/03: McGovern II
07/07/03: French: Toast
07/03/03: At moment of truth, Hillary turns backwards
06/27/03: And now the dominos begin to fall
06/25/03: W's triangulation
06/23/03: Presidents often fall victim to their own success: Some advice for the president
06/18/03: Times not a-changing
06/13/03: Why did Hillary write the book?
06/11/03: Will the Rev go rogue?
06/05/03: Napoleon's maneuvers at Austerlitz have nothing on prez's
06/02/03: Prez's tax-cut catch-22 for Dems
05/29/03: Liberal author documents Clinton's wasted second term
05/16/03: Early Democrat handicapping for 2004
05/14/03: Gephardt: AWOL
04/30/03: Prez can lose
04/25/03: My message to Putin: Call President Bush
04/23/03: NO OIL FOR BLOOD
04/21/03: The war that network news lost in Iraq
04/15/03: Media meltdown
04/10/03: Giving government a good name
04/03/03: Polls' message to Bush: Relax and win the war
03/31/03: Bomb as you need
03/28/03: The strong grow weak through inhibition
03/26/03: Carping pessimism of TV anchors and interviewers fails to give Americans a sense of defeatism
03/17/03: Poll: Get on with it
03/13/03: It's time for U.S. to play hardball at U.N.
03/10/03: The whole (Hispanic) world is watching
03/07/03: Anti-war errors
03/05/03: Domino theory II: Toppling Mideast despots
03/03/03: Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair
02/27/03: Invasion? More like a coup
02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
01/13/03: The new swing voter
01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
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

© 2003, Dick Morris