Jewish World Review Sept. 26, 2003 / 29 Elul, 5763
An open letter to Karl Rove
Senior Adviser to the President
for Strategic Initiatives
The White House
As you know, I have been doing my best to support President George
Bush in the wake of Sept. 11. I felt — and feel — that
it is our patriotic duty to do all we can to help him as we confront
the threat of international terror.
Now, as the president’s ratings approach rock bottom (you hope),
it’s time for me to write to you directly, if publicly, with
advice on how to resurrect this dying presidency.
Dying? When Newsweek has you at the exact share of the vote
you actually got against Gore in 2000 (48 percent — the word
dying is appropriate.
1. Confront Iran We confront a deadly threat, as
you know, in the determination of the theocratic jingoists in Teheran
to acquire nuclear weapons. Don’t worry about being the kid
who cried “wolf” too often. Explain candidly and aggressively
the danger we face from Iran and rally the public to counter the new
Specifically, invoke the D’Amato Amendment and impose sanctions
on European, Asian and Russian companies that invest in helping that
criminal regime develop the oil and gas reserves that it uses to subsidize
It is only by appropriately raising the perceived importance of the
terrorism issue back to its old heights that Bush can keep control
of the political situation at home and abroad. This is not adopting
a bad foreign policy for domestic political advantage. It is adopting
a good one that has the same end.
2. Restrict The Mission in Iraq Isolationism has
always been the hidden force in American politics. Never really defeated
in an election, it lingers in both the Democratic and Republican political
bases. The casualties and cost of the ongoing occupation of Iraq are
tapping into this potent political force (which I once quantified
through polling as 35 percent of the electorate.) These voters put
aside their isolationism to back the war in Iraq and Afghanistan because
of the danger illustrated by Sept. 11. But they are not about to support
what Bush once called “social work” in the guise of what
he now calls “nation building.”
We should place No. 1 priority on the safety of our troops in Iraq.
If we have to keep them on the base and out of the streets, so be
it. The first priority has to be to stop the bleeding, whatever the
cost to Iraqi reconstruction. Americans don’t care if the electricity
is on in Baghdad, just preserve the lives of our sons and daughters.
3. Pass Prescription Drug Benefits The economy is
not that important to Bush’s fate. Unlike in 1992, voters understand
that there is not much a president can do to impact it. Voters also
understand that it is Osama bin Laden, not Bush, who caused the last
recession. But health care prices, now that the smoke of terrorism
appears — incorrectly — to be clearing, are a very important
element in the strength of the Democrats. Just as I told Clinton he
was unlikely to win if he didn’t pass welfare reform, I think
that Bush has to pass prescription drug benefits for the elderly.
None of the GOP objections to the bill should stand in the way of
For those who say the bill goes too far, I would give the same answer
we gave Democrats in 1996 who felt the same about welfare cuts —
pass it now and fix it later.
4. Back Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars Bush needs a major
domestic theme to deal with high gasoline prices and with our dependence
on terrorist oil. His efforts for more energy production ring hollow
with Americans. But by galvanizing Americans around hydrogen fuel
cell cars and retrofitting American gas stations to carry hydrogen,
he offers a practical way to counter the financial power of terrorism.
Just as he seized American imaginations with his commitment to research
in his State of the Union Address, he should now move to implementation
to regain his hold on the issue.
I don’t work there anymore, but perhaps these ideas might help
a very successful president who has provided the leadership we need
Sincerely, Dick Morris
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© 2003, Dick Morris