Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2003 / 3 Tishrei, 5764

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Scouting the loyal opposition | With President Bush's poll numbers falling because of the Iraq chaos, the Democratic Party is suddenly perking up. Like a sports team that senses a change in momentum, the Dems are pouring it on Mr. Bush, portraying him as Dr. Evil with a Texas twang.

But all that is so much vapor if a strong Democratic challenger doesn't emerge and seize the public's attention. The following is a scouting report of the Democratic candidates who have a chance:

Senator Joseph Lieberman: Strengths are integrity, experience, common sense, a clear vision of the world and discipline. By all accounts Lieberman is a good man and would relentlessly track Osama bin Laden. Weaknesses are lack of charisma (which is almost fatal in a country that wants its politicians to be entertaining), a Mike Dukakis deliberate style of speaking that lacks passion and the absence of a simple-to-understand message. Lieberman stands for decency, and we all know how far that will get you.

Senator John Kerry: Strengths are he is a war hero and smart former prosecutor who knows how the world really works. Experienced legislator and compromiser who can make things happen. Weaknesses: stiff and lacks common man connection; won't be hanging with the homies anytime soon. Fuzzy communicator who often sounds like your dad on a bad day. Campaign is chaotic, and he's doing the hiring. Labeled a Massachusetts liberal, which is death throughout most of the country (the truth is, he is not as liberal as perceived).

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Senator John Edwards: Strengths are youth, energy and a Clintonesque connection to the regular folks. Smart lawyer who realizes that working guy Joe is getting hosed and really wants to improve that deplorable situation. Good speaker and engaging manner. Weaknesses: Hair and presentation give him an inexperienced look, which is in context because he is politically inexperienced. Won't frighten Osama or even Arafat. Southern drawl might impress Aunt Bee, but how many more Jimmy Carters and Bill Clintons can the country take?

Richard Gephardt: Incredible knowledge of how the federal government works is his main strength. Earnest big labor liberal who knows how to seal the back room deal for endorsements. Plenty smart and understands Jake down the street. Weaknesses: scares Osama less than Edwards and loathes carrying the big stick. Kind of bland on the campaign trail and lacks any identifiable issue other than spending enormous amounts of tax money. Good at demonizing Bush, but who's listening besides the choir?

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Governor Howard Dean: Charismatic campaigner who knows how to rock the world of the anti-Bush people. That's pretty much his only strong suit, as Gary Coleman could probably govern Vermont if he knew where it was. Weaknesses: weak frame of reference exposed in chat with Tim Russert. Campaign staff is as arrogant as it gets. Foreign policy slogan: "We are ready to avoid you." Osama loves this guy as much as Tim Robbins does.

General Wesley Clark: Looks like a general and is used to being in command. Other than that, who the heck knows anything about this guy? Weaknesses: perception is that the Clintons own him. That's probably not true, but the red states don't care. Might frighten Osama, but might not because Osama believes the Clinton rumors, too.

So there you have it: the no spin scouting report on the men who have a chance to dethrone George W. Bush. Clip and save.

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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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© 2003 Creators Syndicate