Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2002 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | 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.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq