Washington -- Right now, if the November 5 elections were held on this very day, I would asseverate with timpani rumbling and fanfare blasting that the Republicans will win the House of Representatives and the Senate. Naturally, they will also maintain the White House, despite the Democrats' belief that they should not have it and that the gentlemanly thing for George W. Bush to do is to give it back to its rightful inhabitant, Al Gore. That would give the Republicans control of the presidency and the Congress.
Of course, the November 5 elections cannot be held today because it is not November 5. On the other hand if the Democrats were in the lead at this point in the mid-term elections the election might indeed be held today. The Democrats are increasingly adept at changing the rules, as they just did in New Jersey's Senate race, and come to think about it in Florida during the presidential race.
They may not yet be able to change the rules on a national election, but I can tell you that they are going to try to change the subject of the election from national security to the economy, notwithstanding the fact that they have almost nothing to say that is true about the economy. They want to say that our suave president is responsible for the corporate scandals, the recession (now defunct but still a drag on the economy), and the stock market. Actually, the corporate scandals began on the Democrats' watch (and about the time that the Democrats were saying scandals do not matter and character does not matter). The recession began not during the Bush presidency but during the Clinton presidency. The stock market decline is a consequence of Clinton recession. The Democrats might not be able to change the subject of this election from national security to their own false issues.
Leading Democratic policy-makers in moments of candor have admitted recently that they were aware that the economy was unwell at least by the fall of 2000. Kathryn L. Shaw, formerly a member of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration, said at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, in August 2001: "What caused the current growth slump? Well, I hate to tell you this, but as of the fall-early fall of last year-we in the White House, and the Federal Reserve really, very much saw it coming.… Economic growth had started to fade in the fall of 2000 and in my morning briefings in the White House, I developed a reputation for this phrase we've heard today, gloom-and-doom economist, because the manufacturing sector was fading …so it was time to get the election past because things weren't looking rosy."
More recently Joseph E. Stiglitz, former head of Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, writing in the current issue of the Atlantic, has said: "It would be nice for us veterans of the Clinton Administration if we could simply blame mismanagement by George W. Bush's economic team for this seemingly sudden turnaround in the economy.… But although there has been mismanagement … the economy was slipping into recession even before Bush took office, and the corporate scandals that are rocking America began much earlier." And there is another reason the Democrats might not be able to change the subject of this election from national security to the economy. Listen to Senator Tom Daschle and the others. They have no solution for the weak economy.
Thus it seems to me that national security will remain paramount on the electorate's minds. They recognize that we face danger in the world. War against us has already been declared and we have already suffered 3000 casualties. This must have been on the President's mind last night when he addressed us. We already are at war.
I have known three presidents who led us in time of war, Richard Nixon, George Bush, and the greatest of them, Ronald Reagan whose victory was not in a hot war but in the Cold War that could have become the world's hottest war. Surely George W. thought about these three predecessors before delivering his speech Monday night. All three were prudent war presidents. Bush I led us in a small war, but by demonstrating patience and great diplomatic skill. Richard Nixon led us during that dispiriting episode of the Cold War, the Vietnam War; and it ended badly. Reagan took over the presidency from Jimmy Carter at a time when American stature was even lower than at the end of Vietnam. He turned everything around.
He did it by recognizing that there is no compromise with evil. He thought the Soviet Union was evil and that the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction based on strategic balance was evil. And so he broke with polite opinion and decided to press the Soviets on every front. He built up our forces beyond anything the Soviets could compete with. He envisaged missile defense, which signaled the end of Soviet aspirations. And at Reykjavik he stood alone against advisers and world opinion and said no. He would not relent in pressing for peace through might.
George W. has known all three of these men too. He knows that Nixon's failure was a failure borne of compromise. He knows that his father's victory was the consequence of patience but also resolve. He must know that today we live in a world without Cold War because Ronald Reagan followed his instincts and pressed the tyrants with utmost resolve. If George W. does the same toward Saddam Hussein the world we live in will be a more peaceful world. The lesson of Saddam disarmed will not be lost on terrorists or on the terror masters who govern other brute dictatorships.
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