Better batten down and head for the hills

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Apr 01, 2004 12:00 AM

The presidential campaign has gone full-steam. Contemplating the prospects, the mind recalls O. Henry's "It is a rat trap, and you, madam and sir and all of us, are in it - and yearns to head for the hills."

Already the candidates are on the campaign trail full time, except for various medical bypasses to fix John Kerry's this and that. Already the attack ads are saturating the airwaves, with leftie lobbies (the Sierra Club, MoveOn) counterbalancing for Kerry President Bush's loping lead in campaign funds (recent headlines: (1) "Kerry Campaign Relying on Help of Groups' Ads," and (2) "Groups' Ads Level Field for Kerry").

And already the race is neck-and-neck because Kerry and his allies in the partisan press have created the just about perfect political storm.

So believe it: Nov. 2 cannot come soon enough.

The perfect storm. Think about it.

John Kerry, rich and rated more whacked-out leftist by liberal groups than even his mentor the very rich and very liberal Teddy Kennedy, passes off George Bush as somehow a rich-boy peacenik who fled the Vietnam War into a lackadaisical Air National Guard.

The Kerry who voted for the second Gulf War said this at Georgetown on Jan. 23 of last year: "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses. He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. ... The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real." This same Kerry now depicts Bush as having duplicitously misled the nation into war against Saddam based on a deliberate misrepresentation of the WMD threat. And Kerry now terms the countries fighting in alliance with the United States in Iraq "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

The Kerry who opposes the anti-terrorist provisions and policies now in place, seeks to counterweigh Bush's advantage on terror and security by demanding Bush come clean about 9/11 - with the strong implication it all was somehow Bush's fault. The catalyst here, of course, is Richard Clarke, who had deep misgivings about President Clinton on terror but failed to quit that administration. Clarke, retained by Bush, left the Bush administration 18 months ago and wrote a book blistering Bush. He was replaced as chief administration anti-terror official by Rand Beers, who himself left the administration later to become Kerry's foreign policy adviser and, perhaps not incidentally, a collaborator with Clarke.

(Clarke, by the way, has acknowledged in testimony before the 9-11 commission that if Bush had adopted all Clarke's recommendations regarding terror and al-Qaida immediately after his inauguration, 9/11 still would have happened. To Sen. Slade Gorton's question, "Is there the remotest chance that (such a Bush adoption of Clarke's proposals) would have prevented 9/11?", Clarke responded, "No." And to Gorton's question whether prior to 9/11 neither Clarke nor anyone else recommended declaring war and invading Afghanistan to root out al-Qaida, Clarke responded, "That's right.")

The storm thus created by Clarke and Kerry in smooth synchronicity with Kerry's allies has forced the public testimony of Condoleezza Rice in a move designed to have Bush's own national security adviser embarrass the president on the issue of Bush's greatest political strength.

And, on the economy, let's see: Kerry favors repeal of Bush's tax cuts but now supports a tax cut on corporations; Kerry opposed expansion of domestic oil production and long supported a 50-cents-a-gallon increase in the federal tax on gasoline, but now blasts Bush for OPEC practices that have pushed per-barrel oil prices to record levels; Kerry rips Bush for the corporate outsourcing of jobs abroad and cites the limited creation of jobs domestically as a key indicator of a weak U.S. economy - when net worth is up under Bush, net value of real estate holdings is up under Bush, and the market value of stock holdings now exceeds the levels of the pre-9/11 Clinton recession.

More of the same old chutzpah: an ideologized Kerry saying anything - doing anything - for his own political advantage at precisely the moment his Senate Democratic colleagues, blaming the Republicans for gridlock, threaten to block all future Bush nominees to the federal courts.

With all the left's distortion, diversion, and bait-and-switch, a perfect storm indeed.

Yet these truths:

- Among Democrats, a venomous hostility - a meanness - toward Bush rarely seen toward any president.

- A campaign, in full-swing at this unprecedented hour, heralding political Armageddon between a regnant conservatism and a liberalism livid about its lack of dominant power but still largely controlling the agenda, the rhetoric, and the terms of the debate. Yet.

- Despite many indicators, a George Bush retaining a deep-running stream of support among the electorate and two narrowly Republican congressional houses. As a non-incumbent he made Tennessee's Al Gore look like a liberal from Massachusetts (the only state to go for George McGovern). Imagine the sleepless nights of Kerry and his handlers as they lie awake worrying about the quivering protoplasm to which, as president, Bush well might reduce the real thing.