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Jewish World Review April 26, 2004 / 5 Iyar, 5764

Roger Simon

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The cruelest month? April turning out well for White House | April should have been George W. Bush's cruelest month.

In April, the Sept. 11 Commission heard testimony that accused the White House of hindering the fight against al Qaeda and terrorism in order to conduct an unnecessary war against Iraq. The commission also heard testimony that members of the administration were not really interested in terrorism before Sept. 11 and that key warnings of the attack were ignored.

In April, the U.S. death toll mounted dramatically in Iraq as rebel forces led uprisings across the country. The U.S. media reported that key roads to Baghdad had been cut and the city was experiencing a shortage of food for civilians and ammunition for U.S. troops.

In April, Bob Woodward's new book was released containing explosive charges that Bush, himself, had little faith in the evidence that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction, that funds were diverted without the knowledge of Congress from fighting the war in Afghanistan to launch a war against Iraq and that Saudi Prince Bandar promised to lower oil prices to help Bush get re-elected this November.

In April, Bush held a shaky press conference in which he stated that before Sept. 11 he actually believed that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would protect the United States from attack. "After 9-11, the world changed for me, and I think changed for the country," he stated. "It changed for me because, like many, we assumed oceans would protect us from harm. And that's not the case. It's not the reality of the 21st century. Oceans don't protect us. They don't protect us from killers."

Which left the obvious (but unasked) question: Considering that on February 26, 1993 foreign terrorists exploded a bomb inside the World Trade Center that left a crater 22 feet wide and five stories deep killing six and injuring more than 1,000, how could anybody still believe in 2001 that our "oceans would protect us from harm"? One would think that an April like this with events like these — to say nothing of high gasoline prices and a continuing job slump — would give Bush's opponent, John Kerry, a big lead in the polls. Instead, polls show Bush leading Kerry. In an ABC-Washington Post poll, Bush leads among registered voters 48-43 percent (with Ralph Nader at 6) and in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, Bush leads among likely voters 50-44 percent (with Nader at 4.)

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So what is going on here?

Possible explanations:

1. These polls don't mean anything and are not measuring anything significant, especially considering most people are not paying attention to an election which does not take place until Nov. 2.

2. George Bush is a likable, confident leader untroubled by self-doubt, who does well when the subject is terrorism — even if the details tend to indict his leadership — because Americans are reminded that he is a war-time leader who saw us through a terrible attack and is now fighting a war against terrorism (or so the administration claims) in Iraq.

3. Kerry has yet to hit his stride as a campaigner and is still unknown to most Americans. In the end, this might not matter. If it is true that this election is about George Bush alone and whether the American people want to re-hire him for another four years, then if Bush becomes unpopular enough — either through a worsening war or a worsening economy or both — then Kerry would win by default.

As Kerry said recently at a $25,000-a-plate breakfast at the "21" Club in Manhattan, "Their goal is to define me and make me unacceptable. Our goal has to be to keep that acceptability."

Remaining "acceptable" to the American people is a very modest goal. But it could be enough.

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