Jewish World Review Oct. 28, 2004 / 13 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765
Enter the wolf
The race has settled into the pattern it was destined to take all along: President Bush pushing the issue of terrorism while John Kerry focuses on domestic policies.
Ultimately, this is not a contest of two men or two parties or two ideologies for supremacy. It is a battle of two issues the War on Terror vs. domestic policies. And the outcome depends on whether America feels we are at war or at peace. Do we need a wartime leader or a peacetime president?
To be sure, Bush still heralds his tax cuts, "ownership society" plans to overhaul Social Security, his No Child Left Behind program and his prescription-drug legislation. Kerry, for his part, seizes on any mistake in Iraq and tries to make Bush appear incompetent. But mainly each man stands on his turf: Bush on fighting terror; Kerry on domestic issues.
Onto this stage strides a wolf.
Bush's media man Mark McKinnon raises the level of concern about terror to realistic proportions in an advertisement that features wolves closing in on an unsuspecting and distracted America. As the wolves close in, McKinnon's narrator lists the cuts in intelligence funding, weapons systems and defense spending that Kerry has backed during his Senate career.
It's the best negative ad since media genius Tony Schwartz showed a mushroom cloud as a little girl picked petals off a daisy to derail Barry Goldwater's 1964 crusade.
The wolf ad has sparked an amazing surge in Bush's support to the point where every poll but one shows him well ahead of his Democratic rival. It perfectly captures the odd juxtaposition of seeming peace and tranquility at home and the looming danger from abroad.
9/11 began as a beautiful day, too. We woke up to crisp fall air in a sky without humidity or clouds. But the terror planes were taking off from our airports and flying over our city, circling our buildings, closing in with stealth and cunning.
Just as the wolves in the Bush ad do.
Kerry & Co. denounce Bush for running a campaign of fear. But we could have used a bit more fear when Bill Clinton failed to prepare us for the threat of terror. If only he had been more afraid of terror, he might have given the go-ahead to the 1998 CIA plan to kidnap Osama bin Laden or not tipped off the Pakistanis and through them bin Laden to our cruise missile attack in 1998 or given the green light to fire missiles at Osama in 1999 when the CIA said we had the best chance ever to get him.
A little fear back then would have helped a great deal.
In a sense, Bush is now returning to the ground on which he was vanquished in the first debate with Kerry. Finally, he's unleashing the attacks and making the points he should have made back then. He is regaining the lead he lost when he temporized and seemed distracted during the first debate.
At long range and at long last, he is making the case that terrorism is the only issue that really matters. To discuss anything else after 9/11 is like asking Mrs. Lincoln: "Other than that, how did you like the play?"
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, most recently, "Rewriting History", a rebuttal of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) memoir, Living History. (ClickHERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Dick Morris