Jewish World Review March 2, 2004 / 9 Adar, 5764
Election stakes are getting higher
President Bush has been hammered by the Democratic presidential nominees over the past two months. Last week he counterattacked. It's clear that the Bush administration has no choice but to go on the offensive earlier than it planned, especially on the issue of the economy.
Fourth-quarter GDP growth was revised slightly upward this week, but the news on jobs and manufacturing isn't improving enough to help Bush's bid for reelection. In fact, initial jobless claims unexpectedly rose by 6,000 last week, and new orders for durable goods fell by nearly 2 percent in January.
The president's chief political advisor, Karl Rove, has said that this election will be close. Recent polls show the president, at this point, losing to either Sen. John Kerry, who presumably will win the Democratic nomination, or Sen. John Edwards.
Well, I doubt the president would admit that those polls shock him. But the truth is, while Bush has pursued a war against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and a war against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq, he has thus far failed to engage in the conflict of ideas regarding the policies that will shape the nation's prosperity and future.
That engagement will require a commitment to deal with complex ideas, reach difficult decisions and carry out new policies. And most of that energy must be channeled toward understanding what is happening to working men and women in this country, because both parties have taken the easy path to this point.
I've always believed that presidents are generally given too much credit for the success of the economy and too much blame when it falters. But the president has left himself vulnerable on a host of economic issues critical to the future of the country. If he does not assert his leadership on the challenges facing this country and its future, he will, in my opinion, lose this election.
Our manufacturing base continues to wither. U.S. multinationals continue to export hundreds of thousands of American jobs to cheap foreign labor markets. Our trade deficit continues to worsen, and our economy is burdened by millions of illegal aliens.
The president's advisors aren't serving him well. What has been the president's response to these critical issues? Bush has mouthed platitudes about free trade, his economists have said the loss of thousands of jobs to outsourcing is good for us, and the administration has completely ignored our mounting trade deficit. And to address immigration, the president wants to create a guest-worker program for the illegal aliens who are depressing the wages of millions of American citizens.
The Democratic presidential hopefuls recognize Bush's weaknesses and are raising the stakes daily. While neither party is dealing honestly with the issue of illegal immigration - which Americans oppose in overwhelming numbers, according to nearly every public opinion survey done on the subject - they are taking on the issue of trade policies. I imagine they are hoping no one points out the fact that the disastrous consequence of those policies is the fault of both parties.
The millions of unemployed Americans in this country deserve better, and so do the millions of Americans threatened by mindless trade, labor and immigration policies. The winning candidate will be from the party who comes to terms with the new world in which we live, rejects the domination of special interests and paralyzing orthodoxies, embraces fresh thinking and demonstrates real concern for a people in need of a far more effective government.
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02/24/04: Help wanted: Free trade policies hurt working Americans