Jewish World Review August 18, 2004/ 1 Elul, 5764

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Political Experts Prepare for a Democratic Victory


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | When you think about it, that was a really quick presidential election.


I defer to a growing number of pollsters, pundits and political analysts, all pristinely non-partisan, it goes without saying — Charles Cook, ABC's "The Note," John Zogby, Larry Sabato and Time's Mitch Frank, for example — who claim that it's John Kerry's race to lose and only the creation of about two million jobs in September or instant, peaceful democracy in Iraq will save George W. Bush.


Sabato, a University of Virginia professor, hedged a bit on Aug. 16, writing that New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey's craven resignation last week, focusing on his sexual orientation rather than the rampant corruption on his watch — will bring more focus to the referenda in 11 states on the legality of gay marriage, an advantage for the GOP.


John Ellis is a little confused by this rash judgment, writing on his ellisblog.com that Bush is currently leading in the Gallup poll (by two points), and besides, hasn't the historical indicator of the victor been withheld until after Labor Day, when voters shake off the summer lethargy and begin to focus on local and national politics? But Ellis, a first cousin of President Bush, is understandably biased, so his opinion is automatically discounted.


So, while the country prepares for Kerry's inauguration, and the renewal of the United States' long and rich relationship with France and Germany, certain saviors, according to the apparent president-elect, of Bush's mess in Iraq (or, in common parlance, the Iraqi "adventure"), there's some mopping up to do about just how a second man named Bush was denied a consecutive term in the White House.


It could be that John "Love them Wendy's burgers!" Edwards was the key. Aside from getting a bit touchy when Bush hecklers interrupted his campaign rallies, the one-term senator from North Carolina was a one-man "Up With People!" crusader credited for transforming Kerry from the Addams Family's Lurch to Hubert Humphrey's "Happy Warrior."


The Washington Post's Vanessa Williams lovingly described the future vice president's charm in a report from North Dakota that appeared on Aug. 15. "As John Edwards rallied a large, friendly crowd at North Dakota State University on Saturday afternoon," she wrote, "nothing in his demeanor suggested he was frustrated or angry or worried about the barrage of criticism hurled this week at him and Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry."


Part of that "barrage," for the few following the news, was a group of Vietnam veterans who ran an advertisement (largely financed by a Texan!) that slammed Kerry for discrepancies in his tour of duty in Southeast Asia. Such as the Naval commander's "searing" memory of his illegal presence in Cambodia on Christmas Day of 1968, following the orders of President Nixon. (Who didn't take the oath of office for another month, but no matter.)

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Edwards told the Fargo, ND crowd to ignore "the tired, old, hateful, negative politics of the past." And, according to Williams, that approach was just what the spin-doctor ordered, even in a state that hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since about 1628. Williams noted that while Kerry's windsurfing excursion was canceled that day "for want of wind," he would take a four-day breather in Ketchum, Idaho, and let Little John carry the banner.


Undoubtedly, the Post reporter tried like the dickens to find a Bush supporter to quote for her story, but it was all in vain, as "some in the crowd here agreed it would be better to take the high road." Sixty-seven-year-old Hiram Sirjord, a retired postal worker, said, "I think it's frustrating to listen to the Republicans and all their negativism, but I don't think it's really helping them. I think you've got to try to be uplifting for people and get them to the polls."


Amen, Brother Hiram!


Jan Gion, 53, a high school teacher, added, "I just think the people are getter smarter as to Mr. Bush's antics. I think Bush is money-hungry, he's power hungry, and I think people are starting to smarten up and see through him." Only a cynic would counter that Kerry, who married first a multimillionaire and then a billionaire, and was only a millimeter less transparent about his presidential aspirations as youth than Bill Clinton, might also be called "money" and "power" hungry.


Not every Democrat is as cuddly as those found by Williams in North Dakota. Last Friday, Sen. Tom Harkin, who endorsed that Vermont teddy bear Howard Dean in the Iowa caucuses, had some criticism of Dick Cheney, an admonition that Edwards would term as "constructive." The current Vice President in Iowa Aug. 10 had committed the sin of campaigning on behalf of Bush, saying that Kerry "lacks a basic understanding of the war on terrorism" and was unlikely to make the country safer. Harkin shot back, "When I hear that coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boilů Yeah, he'll be tough. He'll be tough. He'll be tough with somebody else's blood, somebody else's kids. But not when it was his turn to go."


Obviously, had Sept. 11 occurred during Clinton's feel-good tenure and he sent "somebody else's kids" off to war, Harkin would've called his fellow Democrat a "coward" as well.


Cheney has also riled the opposition by making fun of Kerry's statement that he'd wage a more "sensitive war on terror." The veep engaged in "hateful" politics by noting "The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."


Rev. Andrew Greeley, a syndicated columnist, last week gave his blessing to Catholics who want to vote for Kerry but are confused by the candidate's confusing stand on abortion. Kerry, who believes life begins at conception, but nonetheless supports unilateral abortion, even in the trimester, has angered, according to Greeley, "a few bishops, some priests and some pro-life laity" because of this position. That's positive as well, even if Greeley earlier this summer said that while Bush isn't exactly a clone of Adolph Hitler, his administration had distinct overtones of the Third Reich.


Another reverend, Jesse Jackson, sermonized to a gathering of the Progressive National Baptist Convention in Houston two weeks ago that Republicans were ignoring groups like organized labor and the NAACP. Julian Bond and Kweisi Mfume, leaders of the latter "non-partisan" association, have spoken about the "Taliban" GOP and casually dismiss Bush and members of his cabinet as racists, but were deeply hurt when the President declined an invitation to speak before the NAACP in July. Jackson, who's at odds with Kerry on the issue of Iraq — he demands a withdrawal of troops, while the candidate said last week that he, like Bush, would've deposed Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction or not — is nonetheless an enthusiastic supporter of Massachusetts' junior senator.


As usual, reading Jackson's remarks takes an inordinate amount of skill — I had an easier time with Latin in high school — but make of this what you will. "We face giants," he thundered. "We've been led to think these giants are invincible and we are impotent. We're living in perilous times. We must overcome this inferiority minority complex. Hard-earned victories are now in jeopardy. I say it's raining and the water is rising for such a time as this God told Noah to build an ark."


You know it's time to put Jesse out to pasture when Kerry's homie Al Sharpton, when not buying fancy suits or ordering room service from a top-echelon hotel, is far easier to understand than the man who appeared on television in a blood-soaked shirt the morning after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 36 years ago.


Sen. Edwards must not have been paying attention to Kerry's acceptance speech in Boston last month — too busy looking at mirrors? — since his potential boss, in an ostensible plea for a clean campaign, filled with discussion about issues, policy and poetry, clearly gave his legion of Anybody But Bush sheep the go-ahead to spread hatred from Cambridge to Malibu. Kerry said: I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity; let's respect one another; and let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States." [Emphasis mine.]


The translation, as the Kerry-Edwards team lines up lawyers to contest the results of every state where they lose by less than five points, is that Bush's administration, in the person of John Ashcroft, might just be planning a coup worse than the one that caused Al Gore to suffer premature dementia almost four years ago.


The Los Angeles Times' Ronald Brownstein, part of the permanent Beltway establishment, offered a loopy if unique perspective of the campaign's "venom" on Aug. 9. He claimed that Bruce Springsteen — who's called for Bush's impeachment at concerts and has posted Gore's rabid rants on his website — might be even more influential than John McCain in calming everyone down. In fact, Brownstein says, if Springsteen can restore civility, he'll "perform an even greater service for the country than for Kerry."


I think Rockin' Ron is dancing in the dark, but he must know something the rest of us don't.


Last Friday, The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger summed up the upside-down state of today's Democratic Party in his column "Wonder Land." Henninger quotes several Hollywood Mensa members who clearly aren't on the same page as Edwards. Meryl Streep, for example, brilliant as a Hillary Clinton-like senator in the box office flop Manchurian Candidate, said: "I wondered which of the megaton bombs Jesus, our president's personal savior, would have personally dropped on the sleeping families in Baghdad." I'm not sure if Streep holds Bush or Jesus in more contempt, but, once more, I'll leave that for Mike Moore and Leo DiCaprio to decide.


Henninger continues: "Isn't it harder by the day to take the Democrats seriously as the party of the common man and the left-out? Besides these people [millionaire celebrities], the party's primary sources of support have become trial lawyers and Wall Street financiers. It is becoming a party run by a new class of elites who make fast money — $25 million for 30 days work on a movie, millions (even billions) winning lawsuits against doctors or asbestos users, millions to do arithmetic for a business merger. But they're all running against 'Halliburton.'"


Victor Davis Hanson, writing on the National Review's website Aug. 13, wondered why the level of hatred directed at Bush is now at Code Red. "Why was the Left content to make fun of Ford's clumsiness, Reagan's forgetfulness, and George Sr.'s preppiness, but now calls George W. a Nazi and worse still? Why are there are forthcoming novels and plays that discuss the assassination of George W. Bush?" Hanson claims that it's because Bush is a religious Southerner who rejected his East Coast pedigree, but I still think it's all about Florida.


One also has to wonder what will become of anti-Bush zealots if Kerry does win in November. (Again, Charlie Cook and David Broder — who used his Aug. 15 Washington Post column to explain why Bush is a goner — notwithstanding, I still don't agree that the victor can be declared before the GOP convention, and more significantly the three fall debates.) It's not as if only the staff of The Nation and New York Times are singing from Terry McAuliffe's bible; more reasonable Democrats are frothing at the mouth as well.


The New Yorker's editor David Remnick is an extraordinarily intelligent and even-keeled man, yet even he is pushing the hyperbole key on his computer. His magazine is unapologetically liberal, and former Jimmy Carter speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg drove off the cliff a few years ago, but Remnick's Aug. 9 "Comment" bordered on the apoplectic.


Remnick acknowledged, both explicitly and between the lines, that Kerry isn't his ideal candidate, but argued that it doesn't really matter. He wrote: "What matters infinitely more [than Kerry's shortcomings] is that George W. Bush is the worst President the country has endured since Richard Nixon and even mediocrity would be an improvement." How Jimmy Carter gets off the hook, I'm not sure; maybe it was his outstanding economic record. Anyway, Remnick then ups the ante: "Indeed, if one regards the Bush Administration's sins of governance — its distortion of intelligence in a time of crisis, its grotesque indulgence of the rich at the expense of the rest, its arrogant dissolution of American prestige and influence abroad, its heedless squandering of the world's resources — as worse than the third-rate burglary and second-rate coverup of thirty years ago, then President Bush is in a league only with the likes of Harding, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan."


Not that Remnick was alive to kibitz about those dismal presidents, but I wonder why he, unlike almost every other pundit and Democratic official, didn't also include Herbert Hoover in his list of Bush's fellow failures. Or Benedict Arnold. Stop the presses: that's in Kerry's domain.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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