A Winning Strategy

Posted: Oct 23, 2004 12:00 AM

 As the election season enters its final days, let?s turn to a great liberal philosopher for some insight: ?If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I?d like to break
that story.?

Oh, sorry. Wrong Dan Rather quote. The one we wanted was, ?This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach.? Rather spoke those words in 2000, but they seem applicable again today. Sort of.

On Oct. 19, CNN?s so-called ?poll of polls? gave President Bush a five-point lead. That survey combined the results of every nationwide poll that CNN trusts. Bush was ahead in every one. Still, network anchors assured viewers, these polls don?t matter, because the race is indeed too close to call.


But surely, either candidate would love to break out and establish an insurmountable lead (such as a 3-0 lead in a League Championship Series). As a public service, here?s how each man can do it.

 Let?s start with the underdog. If John Kerry wants to win, he should stop attacking the president over everything. ?You don?t have a prayer of getting a flu shot,? the senator recently told a Florida audience. Yawn.

Senator, instead of ?fighting? for us, enlighten us. Tell us everyone you would nominate to be in your cabinet.

The last time we elected a president, the Florida recount held up the post-election process for more than a month. That delay meant President Bush entered office with many important offices unfilled.
Well, this election may be even more divisive. Democrats have 10,000 lawyers ready to file complaints in battleground states, and they?re ready to demand recounts. Kerry?s party has set aside some $3 million to spend on legal struggles after the election. So there?s at least a chance the recount (or, heaven forbid, recounts) could go on even longer than in 2000.

By naming his cabinet members ahead of time, Kerry would be ready to go as soon as the voters or the courts or some combination thereof declared him the winner.

Plus, voters would know what they?d be getting. For example, Kerry frequently speaks of his ?friend John McCain.? Would the Arizona senator, who?s currently stumping for Bush, take a post in a Kerry cabinet? He was supposedly a possible vice presidential pick. Kerry should let us know if he?d be tapped to serve as Secretary of Defense.

Next, attorney general. The current occupant, John Ashcroft, has endured attacks throughout this election campaign. Fair enough. If he stays on in a second Bush term, he?ll surely endure many more.
But whom would you nominate, Sen. Kerry? Eric Holder, an assistant AG under Bill Clinton, seems a top contender. Holder appeared on FOX News Sunday and seemed confident of a Kerry victory. ?If every vote is allowed to be cast and every vote is counted, John Kerry will be president,? he asserted. Sounds like he?s planning to be part of the potential legal blitz. Is this a man the American people would want running the Justice Department? We deserve to know if that?s where he?ll end up.

On foreign policy, let?s consider Secretary of State. Bush may well keep Colin Powell. If not, he should let us know whom he?d nominate for that office. Kerry might tap his advisor Susan Rice, another former Clinton hand. She recently told reporters, ?Before the invasion, [al Zarqawi] was in non-Saddam controlled areas, very minor, and didn?t pose any imminent threat to the U.S., and was not in any way cooperating with al Qaeda.?

As Stephen Hayes reported in the Weekly Standard, that?s completely untrue. Zarqawi was often in Baghdad, and the Senate Intelligence Committee says he was the ?senior al Qaeda coordinator responsible for training and recruiting.? Most Americans would probably consider him a threat -- including vice presidential nominee John Edwards, who signed that intelligence report.

Now, as for President Bush. His job is easier, since he seems likely to retain most of the current members of his cabinet. All he has to do is explain which, if any, members he?d replace. He needs a different track to guarantee electoral success. So he should pardon Martha Stewart.

Most Americans agree she got a raw deal in going to prison for the relatively minor crimes of obstructing justice and lying to investigators. Some of us even argued the charges should never have been brought. Bush probably needs the women?s vote, and pardoning Martha might seal that up.

The only fly in the ointment now would be if both candidates took all this advice. Then the race would probably become a dead heat again. But at least we?d have a better idea exactly what we?re voting for.
And that seems only fair.