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Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2002 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Anybody sense a trend? | At this time of year, politicians are sticking their wet forefingers in the air trying to discern any breeze that could remotely be called a partisan trend. In two of the past four off-year elections, they searched in vain for a trend, but the races of 1990 and 1998 had none of any significance. But the trend in 1986 (pro-Democrat) and 1994 (pro-Republican) was so significant that nothing else really mattered.

The elusive thing about determining if there is a partisan trend is that the tendency only materializes at the very end, in the week or two before Election Day. Downscale voters rarely pay attention to races until right before they have to vote, while upscale voters are so sensitive to the events of the day that their votes are often volatile right up to the end.

Early manifestations of trends are often inconclusive or downright misleading. Anybody watching the Gore-Bush race two weeks out would have predicted a strong Bush trend. But Gore surged at the end, hammering at Social Security and dropped his bomb about Bush's DWI record as the memory of the Bush victories in the debates faded.

Clearly, the 2002 elections have already been through two distinct phases. In the spring and early summer, a Democratic landslide seemed likely as the Wall Street scandals gave the Republicans an all-time winning class warfare issue. Despite the best efforts of the likes of Sen. Chris Dodd (D.-Conn.), the Democratic Party had managed to maintain its reputation as a populist defender of the consumer against the ravages of big business. When Bush fumbled in his half-hearted attempt to rein in corporate abuses, the GOP seemed on the ropes.

But then the Democrats stumbled badly in challenging Bush to debate his Iraq policy. In the shadow of the anniversary of Sept. 11, the pendulum seemed to swing back to the Republicans as the nation saw its president decisive and determined to destroy Saddam Hussein while the Democrats were divided and ambivalent.

But then the ground seemed once again to shift after the vote on Iraq ratifying Bush's decision to aggressively challenge the Iraqi dictator. The issue disappeared from the front pages the minute the ink was dry on the congressional resolution.

Suddenly the air was filled with worries about the economy, angst over the stock market, and fear of a sniper that effective gun controls might have inhibited. For his part, Bush became as mired in the quicksand of the U.N. Security Council, rendering him every bit as immobile as he was in the late winter and early spring during his disastrous foray into Middle East Arab-Israeli diplomacy. The dynamic man of decision became a dithering diplomat as he unaccountably let Paris stand in the way of American determination.Fighting France in the Security Council summons to mind Winston Churchill's comment about a land war against the Japanese in Asia: "It's like going into the water to fight the shark."

Now Bush seems about to make another major mistake in leaving the White House situation room to campaign coast to coast for his favored candidates. Just as Bill Clinton squandered the presidential image he had lately acquired in the Middle East in October 1994 by campaigning for his party, so Bush risks hurting his party by leaving the White House. How is America to believe that it is threatened by a hanging sword of Iraqi aggression when the president is out eating rubber chicken and campaigning for congressional candidates?

The real answer for Bush is, as it was in September, to recover his momentum on Iraq. The best way to do this would be to set a deadline for U.S. action - Jan. 1, 2003 - and challenge Saddam to disarm by then. Meanwhile, the United States should ship the troops it needs into the region. If the United Nations goes along by that date, great. If it doesn't, the United States will act to enforce existing U.N. resolutions on its own. Russia will doubtless make a deal in the face of the overwhelming likelihood of U.S. victory (Vladimir Putin understands power as few other world leaders do).

China will abstain as usual. France will realize that the ground has eroded under its position and will either succumb or risk the world's ridicule by vetoing a resolution. With or without the United Nations, the United States must act to defend itself. If the United Nations chooses to be paralyzed by a veto cast by an anachronistic power, that is the problem of the United Nations, not of the United States.

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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.


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

© 2001, Dick Morris