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W's Triangulation
By Dick Morris


June 29, 2003
Sunday - 2:20 pm


President Bush has stolen all the Democratic issues.

Offering prescription-drug benefits under traditional fee-for-service Medicare. Expanded education funding. Boosting Head Start. Banning road construction in Wilderness Areas. Providing tax credits for lower-middle-income families. Ending racial profiling. Replacing expensive branded medicines with cheaper generic drugs.

Like President Bill Clinton signing the welfare-reform bill and leaving Bob Dole with nothing to say, George W. Bush has triangulated and helped to assure his re-election.

Two months ago, even in the flush of his victory in Iraq, Bush was vulnerable. His swift success in the War on Terror could have left him without an issue to use in winning the election.

The latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found fewer than 10 percent of voters citing terrorism as the major issue now facing the nation: That could have portended great political danger for a politician without a domestic agenda. But since then Bush has gotten his political act together with a speed and sureness that shows what a magnificently gifted politician he truly is.

Bush's first step was to secure his right flank by passing the tax cut, guaranteeing that checks of $400 per child will be mailed to 25 million families, and that the economy would be powered by this increased buying power. And when the Democrats agreed to sunset the tax cut in the years right after the '04 election, they forced taxes to the forefront of the general election issues.

Then, like a thief in the night, the Republican president moved with executive and legislative action to pirate all of the key issues near to Democratic hearts.

By the time the opening salvos of the 2004 election are fired, prescription drugs will be covered by Medicare and generic lower cost medications will start saturating the pharmacies of America. The new environment will strip the Democrat candidates of anything much to say.

And Bush has had a lot of help from an unexpected quarter. From deep in the bowels of the Democratic camp, Bill and Hillary Clinton have ridden to his aid: Their party's presidential candidates have to compete for attention with the Clinton noise-making machine, from Hillary's book to the rumors that Bill will run for mayor or seek the repeal of the 22nd Amendment.

It's not easy running for president as a Democrat in 2004. First you had the shadow of Al Gore blotting out anyone else from view. No sooner did Al withdraw than the war in Iraq drove all other stories off the front page. Now, as soon as the gunsmoke clears, the candidates have to compete with Hillary and Bill for attention while Bush swipes their issues.

What's a Democrat to do? Only a Supreme Court vacancy, and the hope that Bush will blunder into a fight over abortion, holds the chance of animating the Democratic hopes.

Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years.

Dick Morris is a political consultant, commentator and best selling author. Look for Dick's newest book, "Power Plays" available now.

Look for Dick's new book, "Off With Their Heads ­ Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics".


Copyright 2003 Dick Morris
Distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. to subscribers for publication.


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