Jewish World Review May 14, 2003 / 12 Iyar, 5763
Edward I. Koch
Living up to their mascot's image? Dems attacks on prez are backfiring
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | The leaders of the Democratic Party are making a big mistake. Their personal attacks against President George W. Bush are actually helping Bush and hurting the Democrats.
Bush's opponents don't seem to realize that the President's manner and appearance are in the tradition of three American icons and make him impervious to Democratic slings and arrows. President Reagan, John Wayne and Gary Cooper also had a quick and charming smile, an attractive way of answering a question directly and sincerely, and an "aw shucks" self-depreciating demeanor. Like President Bush, they conveyed a warmth and vulnerability that made millions of Americans connect with them in a dog-eat-dog world where most Americans feel vulnerable themselves.
It's true that the three to whom I compare President Bush were all Hollywood actors. Nevertheless, each was seen by the American public as a real person, not as a Hollywood cartoon figure. Some might suggest that in their screen roles, they were not acting, but they were simply playing themselves. In any case, they were universally seen as good guys. The same can be said of President Bush.
Indeed, no one among the President's critics suggests that he is not what he seems to be.
President Bush has overwhelmingly won the political battles he has fought to date. His leadership skills have been demonstrated time and again -- internationally in successful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; and domestically in pursuing his economic strategy of tax reductions on a scale never seen before, notwithstanding the political opposition.
While no one in elective office can ever be described as invulnerable in some future election, President Bush is perceived by most as a near shoo-in for reelection. But his adversaries keep their spirits high and whistle past the graveyard by thinking back to President George H.W. Bush's political demise in 1992. He too had demonstrated superb political leadership in international affairs with his victory in 1991 in Kuwait. But his failure to effectively deal with the economy consigned him to defeat. This could happen to the current President Bush, but I don't believe it will.
To be sure, "It's the economy, stupid," the refrain from Bill Clinton's first election victory, cannot be ignored. But President Bush and his advisors are not stupid. The President is lucky (and luck is for the able) that we appear to be leaving bear country and slowly entering the grasslands, the wide open spaces that bulls need to grow fat. We would already be there had Harvey Pitt, appointed by Bush as SEC Chairman and then replaced, done what so many expected of him: beard the Wall Street operators in their dens.
If only he had said, "I am here -- figuratively speaking -- to convict those who took their fellow citizens, the little guys, mostly in the middle class, to the cleaners." Better yet, if he had added, "I want to -- figuratively -- hang a Wall Street broker, investment banker or analyst from a lamppost every day, but only when it is established by a court that they fleeced those little guys who relied on their dishonest statements and reports on stocks." Had he, the stock market would have gone up, as investors returned with their confidence restored. Regrettably, Pitt's successor has not learned from these mistakes.
A word of advice to the President from someone like myself who feels he was fleeced along with the others: Denounce the settlement entered into by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a leading Democrat, and SEC Chairman William H. Donaldson, recently appointed by you, who have given analysts, brokers and the Wall Street investment bankers amnesty from criminal prosecution in exchange for a cash payment of $1.4 billion, paltry when compared to the $7 trillion in market losses they helped create.
Denounce that disgraceful settlement, President Bush, in words that will ring in history as President Reagan's still do on international matters. Remember those unforgettable words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" referring to the Berlin Wall erected by the communist "evil empire."
Mr. President, you spoke truth in international affairs with your "axis of evil" reference. Now, go the whole nine yards and find your own phrase for the Wall Street tycoons who have impoverished the nation and demand their prosecution. Ask Attorney General John Ashcroft to examine the possibility of withdrawing from the settlement, it not yet having gone into effect. Ashcroft would become the poster boy of the nation if he used some of his prosecutorial zeal for those who have endangered the twilight years of the pensioners in this country and those baby boomers who expected to join their ranks. You know how to do it. You demonstrated that when you landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln looking like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun."
You had every right to that extraordinary exposure. Were we living in the days of ancient Rome, you would be entitled to a
triumphal march through the streets of Washington, D.C., and New York City through new arches built in your honor with the
Iraqi leadership captured to date pulling your chariot. We have progressed since those times, and the landing on the
Abraham Lincoln was an acceptable substitute and, frankly, much cheaper. Nevertheless, your foolish opponents decry the
expense. They would have preferred your taking a taxi to the beach and a water taxi to the ship. Mr. President, you did the
right thing. When you got it, flaunt it.
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05/07/03: Wall Street settlement was not justice