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Jewish World Review Sept. 9, 2004 / 23 Elul, 5764

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

Clintonistas move in for the kill — of Kerry


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The Democratic convention failed to give Sen. John Kerry the bounce that he needed and anticipated because, at the end, after Clinton, Obama, and Edwards had oriented the convention to a domestic agenda, he tacked the wrong way and emphasized foreign policy and war to the exclusion of healthcare and the economy.


The Republican convention, by contrast, was carefully aimed at promoting the saliency of President Bush's anti-terror agenda and emphasizing the dangerous threat under which we all live.


Now comes the third convention: the anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This anniversary will rivet national attention on the catastrophe that doomed almost 3,000 Americans to a fiery death, and, by implication, will underscore the need to keep Bush in office to protect us from further mayhem. Even the sports events of this coming weekend will likely all feature memorial tributes to the dead of Sept. 11. Everywhere one turns this Saturday we will be reminded of the grim events of that horrid day.


Kerry, on the other hand, continues to miss the point. By talking about his wartime record — even by rebutting the claims of the Swift boat veterans — he diverts attention from the domestic issues that are his only salvation.Terrorism, after all, is a media event outside of New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Who is going to attack Kansas City?


Every day, Americans must go to the pharmacy to get Mom's prescription medication and ante up the high copayment or absorb the entire cost if they are without insurance. Every week, workers get an inadequate paycheck or worry about their futures in the face of low cost foreign competition. It is this daily reality, not the media-driven threat of terrorism that Kerry must stress if he wants to get back into this race.

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Instead, Kerry has reached out to a set of advisers who do not, really, even support his candidacy. James Carville and Paul Begala have their primary loyalty to the Clintons who, first and last, want Hillary to run for president in 2008. Generally speaking, it is a good idea in politics to hire only advisers who want you to win.


Carville and Begala, if they act in their own self-interest, as they always do, are rooting for Bush. What better place to do so than from within the Kerry headquarters?


If we want any further proof of the Clintons' intentions in this election, ponder who leaked to the media the now-famous 90-minute sickbed conversation former President Bill Clinton had with the Democratic nominee. Who leaked it to the media?


Not Kerry or his people, who spent the weekend denying that the hiring of Begala and Carville reflected a Clintonian domination of the campaign. The leak came, undoubtedly, from the Clinton people, who wanted to hype the role their former president was playing in the Kerry operation, precisely to cast the senator as weak and dependent on Clinton's advice.


And let's remember that neither Carville nor Begala was the operative to whom Clinton himself turned when he needed to win the 1996 election. In 1992, he used them to win the 43 percent of the vote he needed to garner in a three-way race.


Among Democratic loyalists, they are the kings of maximizing the turnout. But for swing voters, their partisan and populist appeals fall flat. Knowing this, one wonders if Clinton has not sent his operatives forth knowing full well that their best and most earnest advice will be bad and will make Kerry's defeat, and Hillary's ultimate candidacy, more likely.


If Kerry doesn't get it, Bush does. He understands that a focus on terrorism and the threats we face are key to his reelection prospects. Beneath the division of Americans into two seemingly equal camps lies a consensus that Bush is the better president for wartime and that Kerry will do better at the peacetime tasks of stimulating the economy, creating jobs, improving healthcare, raising education standards and protecting the environment.


In both of these suppositions, the voters have seen through the rhetoric of each camp and have accurately divined the abilities of each candidate. It now remains only for Bush to prove we are at war — as we are — to vindicate his candidacy.



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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.

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