Jewish World Review Sept. 27, 2004 / 12 Tishrei, 5765

Zev Chafets

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Consumer Reports

Kerry hands Bush the big-buzz issues | John Kerry is running the dumbest presidential campaign in modern history. Don't misunderstand. Dumb is not the same as wrong. Kerry may be right on some of the issues. But that's not the point. Elections are about votes, and Kerry's campaign seems calculated to actually repel them. Have a look:

Taxes. The first rule of politics is: Low taxes, good; high taxes, bad. President Bush understands this. He is running as a tax cutter, plain and simple. Elect him and you pay less.

Kerry, on the other hand, wants to raise taxes. Just on the rich, he says, but nobody believes that - and why should they? For years he and other Democrats have denounced Bush's cuts as unfair. Middle class voters look at Kerry and see a guy who's going to raise their taxes.

Religion. Another rule of politics is: Carry your own denomination. Bush will - he's the darling of Evangelical Protestants. Evangelical churches across the country are his de facto clubhouses, pastors his precinct captains.

Once upon a time, Catholic Democratic candidates Al Smith and John Kennedy could count on similar sectarian solidarity. But Kerry's stance on abortion has turned the Catholic hierarchy against him. He is so unpopular with the leadership that Edward Cardinal Egan very publicly failed to invite him to attend the annual Al Smith dinner next month. Getting the snub is the political equivalent of excommunication.

Family Values. Bush has made himself the champion of traditional marriage. Kerry is running as a Massachusetts metrosexual. "Ozzie and Harriet" beats "Will and Grace" in every swing state in the country.

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National Icons. Sometime in the next two weeks, the Senate will take up a constitutional amendment to outlaw burning the American flag. Bush favors this amendment, Kerry opposes it.

The Democrats also have managed to get themselves on the "no" side of a House bill that seeks to keep the words "under Go-d" in the Pledge of Allegiance. These bills are political theater, not legislation, but that isn't the point. Parties surrender control of the nation's patriotic symbols at their peril - especially south of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Mississippi.

Iraq. Bush says it was right to take down Saddam Hussein. Kerry says it wasn't worth it. Bush says that Iraq is part of the war on terror, Kerry says it isn't. Bush says that America is winning, Kerry says America is losing. Bush says elections will be held in Iraq, Kerry says they won't.

These propositions are all debatable, but it is a debate Kerry can't win - at least not by Election Day. Nobody will know on Nov. 2 if Iraq can stage an election next year. Nobody will be able to say for sure whether America is safer with Saddam out of power. There will be no final answer to the question: Is the U.S. engaged in Vietnam II or World War III?

What voters will know is that President Bush is optimistic on the war, Kerry pessimistic. Pessimism is not considered a winning trait in American politics, certainly not in wartime. By going negative on the war, Kerry's position can be vindicated only if some major disaster occurs.

Five weeks out, Kerry has dealt Bush every trump card - G-d, family, low taxes, optimism and victory.

It is impossible to imagine Bill Clinton - or any competent politician - doing such a thing. It is only slightly more possible to imagine Kerry winning with the hand he has dealt himself.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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