Jewish World Review May 24, 2002 / 13 Sivan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The only way the Democrats can gain in the congressional elections of 2002 is to take the war on terror out of national politics. By agreeing with President George Bush and avoiding any appearance of daylight between the Democratic congressional leadership and the president on any aspect of the war, international or domestic, Democrats can keep the president's popularity out of their contests for Senate or Congress and run their campaigns only on domestic issues.
It is only "yes" which disarms the GOP and makes it impossible for Bush to deploy his enormous job approval on behalf of his chosen candidates for Congress. Anything less than yes opens the door for the war on terror to intrude on these local contests and permits Bush to transform them into a referendum on his international policies - a vote the Democrats are sure to lose.
It is the right of any political party to make inadmissible the strengths of its opponents by embracing their positions and offering total agreement. It was thus that Bill Clinton kept the Gulf War out of the 1992 election and welfare reform out of the 1996 presidential contest. But the minute a party disagrees with its opponent on any part of his strongest issue, they "open the door"- as a trial lawyer would say - to the issue and it has the potential to dominate the political dialogue.
So far the Democratic strategy of agreement with Bush is working well. Despite presidential popularity approaching 80 percent, Democrats and Republicans are about even in polls testing generic party preference in senatorial and congressional races. They have managed so well because of the innate popular preference for divided government to check and balance the spenders in one party and the zealots in the other and because of the Democratic skew of most domestic issues of the day - environment, campaign finance reform, healthcare and Social Security.
But now, the Democrats are endangering their position by their intemperate criticism of Bush on the war. The spate of attacks last week from the likes of hot- headed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and others on the Hill were self-destructive and injurious to the Democratic Party and its chances in November. The heated question - "What did Bush know, and when did he know it?" - is one which can only be asked in a nonpartisan environment with cool and detached statesmen pondering the answer.
Like children watching their parents argue, voters are viscerally opposed to partisan infighting in the aftermath of Sept. 11. In a recent online poll conducted by Vote.com, voters were read 15 statements of their attitudes after the tragedy and asked how much they agreed with each. Fifty-two percent said that it was "very true" and 33 percent said it was "somewhat true" that they are "less tolerant of partisanship and political infighting" in the wake of Sept. 11. This reaction to the disaster was higher than for comments that might seem more applicable such as "I am more afraid for my personal safety (32 percent)", "I am more suspicious of strangers, particularly people from the Middle East (27 percent)", or "I am more respectful of people in uniform like police and firefighters (42 percent)."
Voters see partisan politics and sniping as dividing the nation and weakening us in the face of an external threat as surely as they did during World War II.
But, by bashing Bush, the Democrats free him to campaign for his candidates for the Senate and House on a platform of "give me the support I need to win the war." By criticizing his actions, Democrats permit Bush to use his strongest argument in pursuing congressional majorities in 2002.
Hillary Clinton has terrible political instincts when she is out from the control of her advisors and handlers. She is the same person who ran healthcare reform into the ground when she doesn't listen to cooler heads and acts on impulse.
Her reactions to the intelligence revelations reflects that intemperance against
which she must always guard. Under wraps during the Senate campaign and
thus far in her tenure, she could stand it no longer and lashed out. With luck,
Democrats can rely on her to remain quiescent until the votes are counted in
05/22/02: The Clinton failures