Jewish World Review May 3, 2004 / 12 Iyar, 5764

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Paging Don Corleone | In the last week or so, some of the liberal media like The Village Voice and the editorial page of the Los Angeles Times has hammered John Kerry for being, well, John Kerry. The general criticism is that the guy is not anti-war enough and can't rally the faithful like Howard Dean did.

But underlying the brickbats is the belief by some Democrats that if Kerry can't surge in the polls now, then when can he?

President Bush has taken a mauling from the 9-11 Commission theatrics and the bloody theater of battle in Iraq. There is no question that the Bush Administration made major mistakes by ignoring Al Qaeda warnings and underestimating anti-American feeling once Saddam was deposed.

Despite those errors, the president has actually gone UP in some polls, and Senator Kerry has either gone down or stayed the same.

But the more distressing poll question for Democrats is the one Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked: "Regardless of how you plan to vote, who do you really believe will win the 2004 presidential election -- Bush or Kerry?"

Only 29 percent of the respondents said Kerry. That kind of response would get him booted off "American Idol."

So some Democrats are worried, even though the senator has five months left to strut his stuff. The question is, does Kerry even have any stuff?

I say, don't underestimate a guy who was dead last December but made Bela Lugosi look like an amateur two months later. However, Kerry needs to get some policies. The reason Bush hasn't faded is that he is steadfast in fighting the terror war while the best alternative Kerry has is to let the United Nations handle it.

Here's a news flash, senator. Many Americans don't trust the United Nations and well remember it cut and ran in Iraq as soon as the going got tough.

The Bush people, of course, are watching all this carefully. A high-ranking Bush advisor told me that as it stands now, the White House doesn't think John Kerry can beat the president unless Mr. Bush makes a huge Jerry Ford-like mistake. You'll remember that President Ford told a stunned Jimmy Carter and national TV audience that Poland wasn't in the Soviet orbit back in 1975.

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The high-ranking Bush person also told me that if I used his name in any way, I would disappear to the place where Dick Cheney goes and never be seen again.

So, at this point, the Republican strategy to retain power seems to be a "rope-a-dope" tactic. Some of you may recall that when Muhammed Ali fought the younger, stronger George Foreman in Africa in 1974, he stood against the ropes, covered his body and face with his hands and arms and allowed Foreman to punch away doing minimal damage. When George finally got tired, Ali knocked him out.

The president believes he can absorb the media punishment because John Kerry does not have a better plan. Kerry can exhaust himself running around the country spouting slogans while Bush leans against the White House ropes looking calm and tough-minded.

Will this work? It will unless things get dramatically worse in Iraq and/or in the other aspects of the terror war. Or unless John Kerry comes up with a tough, cogent plan to heighten America's security. All this dopey stuff about lost medals and National Guard attendance will mean little come November. Americans want to punish those who would kill us and keep them on the defensive. They will vote their own security this time.

Savvy Democrats know that and thus are huddling to come up with something to counter W's "firm resolve." Partnering up with the U.N. guy, Lakhdar Brahimi, won't do it and neither will promising better relations with the hated France.

John Kerry needs a wartime consigliore. Paging Don Corleone.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of, most recently, "Who's Looking Out for You?" Comments by clicking here.

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