Jewish World Review Nov. 2, 2004 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Rich Lowry

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The Kerry recovery | One of the most invisible numbers all year long has been this one — 5.4. That's the unemployment rate. It's quite low. Could be lower, yes; however, in most decades it would have been a sign of rollicking prosperity. But it has been discounted heavily this election year.

If John Kerry wins, that all changes. Nov. 3 will mark the beginning of what will be known forevermore in the media as "the Kerry recovery." The number 5.4 will be noted again and celebrated far and wide. Indeed, the low inflation, high productivity, high rates of homeownership, solid corporate profits and strong gross domestic product growth will be taken to mean what they should have been taken to mean all along — the economy is in the midst of a sustained, healthy recovery.

President Bush has been in a race to see whether underlying reality can beat out negative perceptions about the state of the country and the world. His father lost this race in 1992. The economy had been officially recovering from the recession since March 1991. But people didn't feel it, and the media wasn't about to let them. It wasn't until Bush was defeated that The New York Times ran a front-page piece headlined "Signals of the Clinton Recovery": "A number of business executives say the Clinton expansion may have arrived even before the President-elect moves into the White House."

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In the same way, long-ignored data that should have helped Bush will suddenly benefit Kerry. It will be "discovered," for instance, that manufacturing orders are at their highest level since June 1950. A Kerry manufacturing rebound! It isn't plausible, of course, that Kerry could cause a rebound before he has taken office, or before any of his policies have taken effect. There was the same problem in attributing the recovery to Bill Clinton in late 1992 and early 1993. Not to worry. He was said to have sent the "right signals" to the market. Kerry also would be credited with such shrewd signaling, which would consist mostly of soulful conversations with former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Many of the sound bites that have so hurt Bush will no longer be operative by January. By the time Bush leaves office or is reinaugurated, the chances are that the net job loss during his four years in office — driven by the downturn he inherited and by 9/11 — will have been wiped out. So much for his Herbert Hoover-esque jobs record. The price of oil, which the Kerry campaign has been hammering, will recede sooner or later since it is driven by fearful speculation more than the true state of the market. Even the foreign-policy picture will look better.

Osama bin Laden's latest tape seems to be a testament to his own weakness. If Kerry wins, he will immediately acknowledge how it is difficult to hunt down one man and argue that bin Laden's continued survival tells us nothing about his actual strength. Kerry might even begin citing the fact that we have destroyed 75 percent of what was bin Laden's top leadership in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. "Guess what?" Kerry will effectively say. "We're winning the war on terror."

Even in Iraq, timing could benefit Kerry. The most important battle, for Fallujah, will probably occur right after the election. Assuming the insurgents are routed without causing a political meltdown in Iraq — entirely plausible — this will set the stage for the January elections. This would mean Kerry will be taking over just as Afghanistan and Iraq will have held historic elections that signal a fresh start — to coin a phrase — in the broader region.

Overall, it could be a great time for winning the presidency, as the two forces that have been most active in accentuating the bad news — the Democrats and the media — change their tune. Old message: We are sunk in a Depression-era economy and losing the war on terror. New message: It's morning again in America!

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10/29/04: The Ohio insurance policy
10/26/04: The provisional-vote scam
10/22/04: The Florida lie
10/19/04: How government created the vaccine crisis
10/15/04: Kerry's strange respect
10/12/04: Senator, you're no Reagan
10/11/04: Tora Bora bull
10/05/04: The debate that wasn't
09/29/04: Momma gets tough
09/24/04: The GOP's demographic problem
09/21/04: Kerry's Iraq gambit
09/20/04: Questions for Dan Rather
09/14/04: John Kerry, explained
09/10/04: The unfathomable human toll
09/08/04: W the Bold
09/03/04: Loud and proud
09/03/04: The candidate of change?
08/27/04: The McCain myth
08/24/04: Kerry refuses to admit that he burst onto the national scene by telling a shameful falsehood about American servicemen
08/20/04: The war on obstetrics
08/17/04: And now it's ‘Tommy Franks lied’?

© 2004, King Features Syndicate