2004 PART I

This is the first in a series of pieces analyzing the 2004 presidential election. Please remember: this is analysis, not cheering or rooting. The point of these columns is to take various looks at what might influence next year’s crucial Presidential election.


One year from next Tuesday the 2004 Presidential and congressional elections will take place. For both major political parties, this election is absolutely critical. For the GOP, which now controls the White House and both houses of Congress, they want to solidify what has become a marginal Republican majority in the United States. A majority of governorships and state houses are under GOP hands. And the federal judiciary also is being slowly filled – slowly because of Democratic stalling tactics - with GOP-appointed judges.

While no one believes the Republicans could lose control of either house of Congress, should President Bush be defeated it would be viewed as a repudiation of conservatism and be seen as a major setback to the Republican Party.

Conversely, the Democrat Party – ever since the rise of the Clintons in 1992 – has been in full retreat. Masked by Bill Clinton’s clever use of the White House publicity machine and friendly coverage from the so-called ‘mainstream media,’ few noticed that the Democrat Party shrank visibly throughout the 1990’s. They lost state after state – both governorships and state houses so crucial in the redistricting process – and then in 1994 they lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1953. Most observers ascribed that defeat to the after-effects of the HillaryCare debacle.

Then came 2000, Florida, 9/11, Iraq, WMD, the carrier landing and soaring Bush poll ratings. And then came the Iraq ‘unraveling’: no WMD, no Saddam, violence, daily GI deaths, suicide bombings, Valerie Plame, and Rummy’s memo revealing that things aren’t going as well as the Bush White House claims. Plus continuing economic laxity and bad employment stats.

So here we are: the new Newsweek poll asks, “Do you think G.W. Bush deserves re-election?”

The answers: 46% say Yes; 47% say No.

A split, evenly divided nation.

Sound familiar?

From the conservative point of view, it is amazing that this is the second President George Bush who waged a war against Iraq, profited with huge (91% for 41; 89% for 43) poll ratings and then allowed those numbers to totally evaporate.

One year ago no one believed this President Bush could possibly be defeated in 2004. No one!

Even just a few months ago most Democrats when polled did not believe he could or would be beaten even though they hoped he would be.

But everything has changed for the Bush White House. They have lost control of the agenda. A year ago during the run-up to the mid-term congressional races, President Bush was able to shape the campaign on supporting or not supporting the upcoming war against Saddam. Given that context, the Republicans defied history and actually picked up House and Senate seats.

A year later Iraq controls George Bush – not the other way around.

In the middle of a PR offensive trying to paint a rosy picture of life in Iraq since then end of ‘major combat operations,’ the Bush White House is now faced with a Ramadan filled with suicide bombings and an escalation of GI deaths.

And no matter how hard they try to limit media access to the wounded troops inside Iraq the truth is seeping out: the post-war on-the-ground situation is a total mess over there.

How this plays out will in large part determine whether this President Bush emulates his father as a one-term President.

The economy, too, is now on autopilot. Team Bush has fought hard to pass a series of tax cuts and tried to sell them as stimulants for a slowly recovering economy. Now we all – including the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign – wait to see if, indeed, the economy noticeably picks up steam by next year. If it does then the GOP may keep its enormous power. But if the economy continues to create few new jobs and only marginally improves, then all bets for re-election are off.

So on the two major issues – Iraq and the economy – the Bush White House is like the rest of us: prisoners of events out of our control.

And that is not the way you want to head into an election year.

WHY? Part 3

Why can Osama Bin Laden release yet another audio tape this week taunting the USA – confirmed by the CIA as “probably’ the Al Qaeda chief – and get away with it?

Why isn’t the US Government – and the American people - inflamed over this new threat and immediately launching 200,000 troops into Afghanistan and Pakistan to root out this confessed mass murderer?

Why aren’t we doing everything humanly possible to kill or capture this enemy of the United States?

Why is Iraq deemed more vital to the War on Terror than the actual terror leader who began the war on 9/11?

Why is it so bad to make any US Taxpayer dollars spent on rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq a loan against future Iraqi oil revenue?

Why does the Administration object so vehemently to this? Yes, debt is bad and Iraq is already heavily in debt from the Saddam spending frenzy of the past thirty years but the Iraqi oil reserves are worth over a trillion dollars. And here at home this so-called conservative administration doesn’t mind adding to America’s federal debt, does it?

On politics, why does the national news media fawn over General Wesley Clark? Why pay any attention to a fellow who no one had ever heard of? Why focus so heavily on someone who doesn’t even know what he stands for and changes his mind every day?

Why have all the political pundits missed the anti-war fervor of Democratic hardcore primary voters? This is what is fueling former Governor Howard Dean’s meteoric rise from nowheresville to front runner. And it is this fervor that has moved Iraq front and center as the number one issue in next year’s presidential campaign.

Why did the New York Daily News Washington Bureau Chief, Thomas DeFrank, a long-time source and confidant of former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush, write last week that President G.W. Bush is "unhappy" with both Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell? Does this reflect the Bush Family view? Has the DC infighting over post-war Iraqi affairs hurt W’s re-election chances and thus spooked his parents?

Why did DeFrank also mysteriously hint that W and the Bushes might also be unhappy with Vice President Cheney?

Why has the enormously popular Barbara Bush suddenly launched a media offensive on all the networks to blast the Democrats running for President? Does she think her son needs a political boost?

Why does a majority of Americans have a dim view of the economy while most economic indicators paint a rosy picture? Why does the stock market go down despite generally good earnings reports being released this week?

Why are American people so heavily in debt? Is it true as a recent commercial claimed that the “average American has 11 credit cards”? Can this be true – or is it “the average American family has 11 credit cards”? Either way, does this portend a housing crash due to excessive debt?

On morality; why is Christian-bashing – especially Catholic-bashing – the only ‘politically correct’ form of religious discrimination now allowed in our country?

Why is General Boynton such a bad guy for being a fervent Christian? Is it so bad to believe that Saddam and Osama are the Devil incarnate? Hitler certainly was and no one attacked any Christian or Jew who thought so or said it publicly.

Why is this country so afraid of dissenting opinions?

And why in the world is the United States Supreme Court spending even one nanosecond on the case of the ‘under God’ phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance? Why should the underpinnings of society be continuously under attack from within our own country?

If the United States of America is not ‘under God,’ then no one or no nation has ever been. And thank God we are!


Lost in all the news of Rush Limbaugh’s prescription drug problem is the incontrovertible fact that ABC talk radio host Sean Hannity has now ascended to the prestigious position of the top national talk radio host on the air.

Sean had been trailing Rush – 18 million to 10 million – in weekly listeners before Rush’s self-imposed exile in drug rehab. But Sean’s rise to national prominence has, in many ways, been even swifter and more meteoric than Rush’s was in the late 1980’s. Fueled by his good looks and nightly top-rated Hannity & Colmes TV show on the Fox News Channel, Sean Hannity is now the unquestioned star of the crucial talk radio universe.

Yes, Rush will one day return to his daily show and most of his audience will remain loyal to him; included in that loyal following will be Sean Hannity himself. Never a fair-weather friend, one of Sean’s best qualities is his loyalty and devotion to people and principles. Many have called Rush an egotistical self-promoter who is more shtick than substance; those who know Sean know him to be direct, straightforward and the same on-air as he is off-air.

But Rush’s biggest problem when he returns is going to be the inevitable label as a hypocrite. While he preached a “send them up-the-river” attitude toward drug users, he himself was using illegally obtained drugs. Limbaugh can do much to help address the epidemic of prescription drug abuse if he ‘comes clean’ about his years of abuse. But he will never completely resume his previous position as the top-rated conservative voice on the air. Just look at another Vicar of Virtue, William Bennett: since his million-dollar gambling habit was exposed he is no longer in as much demand on the lecture circuit. He is desperate for income and takes any gig offered to him. His gambling debts apparently run in the millions. Let’s face it: Bennett has lost – and will never regain – his former status on the Right as the man to listen to when values are discussed.

Similarly, Rush Limbaugh has certainly lost some of his influence and, more importantly, some of his most valuable asset: his credibility.

Sean Hannity – in contrast to Bennett and Rush – assumes the Number One position with not a shred of personal scandal near him. A strong husband, father and son, Sean personifies the clean-cut image that others only try to portray. With Hannity, the old expression applies: what you see is what you get.

There will be no hidden drug or gambling problems to discredit Sean.

All of this is of critical importance as we head into the 2004 presidential and congressional elections. The Left will do anything to win next year. And they are desperate to undercut the best asset we have: the power and influence of talk radio. Rush’s self-destruction plays right into their hands.

That is why it is crucial that the new Talk Radio King be above reproach.

As seen in the California recall election, Sean’s radio and TV Town Hall with eventual winner Arnold Schwarzenegger went a long way toward calming conservative discontent with the social moderate. As Sean has said, “I’d rather get 70% than nothing at all.”

The success and influence of Talk Radio drives the Left up the wall. They just can’t understand why listeners reject liberalism and why liberal talk show hosts and shows can’t cut it. The plain fact is that regular American radio listeners do not want to hear any more leftist propaganda; they have gotten their fill of that stuff in high school, college and in the newspapers. National Public Radio – subsidized by the taxpayers – is the only place liberals survive on the radio.

Talk radio – a truly unfiltered medium – is the backbone of the conservative movement. It is only as strong as the credibility of its hosts. With the king of daytime talk radio sidelined indefinitely, Sean Hannity now steps into the spotlight.

Prediction: Sean will become even more popular and credible than Rush was in his prime. And he will help lead a new conservative renaissance in America.


Rush Limbaugh’s admirable admission of prescription drug addiction may do more good than anyone now knows. Why? Because Rush Limbaugh can - if he chooses – help lead a crusade against the widespread, epidemic abuse of legal, prescription drugs in this country.

True, Rush probably would not have fessed up had not the National Enquirer outed him as a drug abuser. But now that he has been cornered, he chose the honorable path: he admitted to his problem; many addicts remain in total denial.

Now the real journey begins.

Rush is going into rehab. Done correctly, a properly recovering addict is never ‘cured.’ He/she is always recovering. He/she may leave the rehabilitation center, but that addict needs to keep treating the addiction. Narcotics Anonymous meetings and constant monitoring under the care of a ‘sponsor’ are all part of the recovery plan.

As Rush goes through this step-by-step agony, he can do more to help this country than anything he has done in his distinguished broadcast career: he can educate his huge listening audience about the biggest disease sweeping this nation: prescription drug addiction.

I have seen this disaster up close and personal: an older brother of mine has been paralyzed for fifteen years from the chest down because he was so zonked out on Valium that he miscalculated one morning while jogging and was hit by a car going 55 miles per hour. The injuries were so widespread that it would take a column just to describe them. Suffice to say a broken neck left him a quadriplegic for life.

This guy’s problems began 14 years earlier when he was given Valium for the after effects of a painful kidney stone. Soon my brother was hooked – and not much later was scamming local drug stores to ‘double-fill’ his prescriptions.

Over the next decade or so he increased his daily intake to over 100 mgs. per day of Valium. This is a huge dose – but not to a long-time user.

Ask any addict who has been hooked on booze, cocaine or heroin and also on Valium and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Valium is by far the hardest addiction to shake. And Valium is the only one that is legal and prescribed by doctors!

True, the DEA has tightened up on Valium. But there are hundreds of other drugs – just like the ones that Rush is hooked on – that proliferate. And the abuse is so widespread.

Getting these drugs illegally is as easy as buying a Snickers candy bar. Internet pharmacies are everywhere. And local suppliers are easy to find, too.

Yes, doctors do a poor job following up on their patients after the original problem is ‘solved.’ But, in all honesty, it is up to each of us to behave properly and lawfully. And we aren’t!

Rush Limbaugh has been ‘called’ by God to serve a much higher purpose than educating the American public about the failures of Big Government Liberalism. Now Rush’s job will be to lead by example a new Campaign Against Prescription Drug Addiction.

Using his powerful radio show, Rush can teach his listeners what he is learning about his own addiction. Betty Ford, a generation ago, introduced the idea of a celebrity fighting this same problem. But she did it through her highly successful Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs. Few people actually go there compared to the millions that Rush speaks to each day on his show.

Instead of his listeners calling Rush each weekday, this time God has ‘called’ this radio genius to a higher cause.

Let us all pray for Rush’s treatment and for his ultimate return to the airwaves. And let us also pray for all those among us who are in a battle against their own addictions. I pray they can overcome this dread disease and once again enjoy a healthy life.


The question has been asked in this space many times before: Why in the world does President George W. Bush keep Clinton-appointee George Tenet as Director of Central Intelligence?

Simply stated, we do not know why. But we do know that President Bush is fiercely loyal to this life-long Democrat who named CIA Headquarters after former President George H.W. Bush. And we know that in several TV and print interviews since 9/11 the former President – himself a former CIA Director - has spoken out in behalf of Tenet’s performance at CIA.

Of course the actual record of the ‘Intel Community’ under Tenet’s stewardship has been a total and complete disaster:

1) Failure to ‘get’ Osama Bin Laden several times during Clinton’s last two years in office.

2) Failure, of course, to prevent the devastating 9/11 attacks – or to sufficiently warn the nation in advance that “something was imminent.”

3) Failure to catch or kill Osama Bin Laden since then – despite the President’s “dead or alive” promise. The longer we go without finding Osama, the more he taunts us with new audio tapes threatening new attacks.

4) Failure to prove with sufficently credible evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the war began. This failure caused our government to be incapable of rounding up sufficient allies – the way the first President Bush did in 1990-1991.

5) After the war ended in April, our intelligence community has been unable to find, capture of kill the biggest Weapon of Mass Destruction of them all: Saddam Hussein himself.

6) We have also been unable to find even one shred of evidence of WMD.

7) The still-unfolding flap over yellowcake uranium from Niger, the now-infamous 16 words in the State of the Union address and the White House Leak story now consuming DC.

With such an abysmal intelligence record, we all have to wonder why Team Bush doesn’t lop off Tenet’s political head?

The reason he doesn’t may be quite simple: George Tenet is an expert – not so much in intelligence matters – as he is in schmoozing and buttering up a very inexperienced President. Since the day after the 9/11 attacks, George Tenet tries to see the President daily, often doing the 8AM daily intelligence briefing himself. He must figure that as long as he is “in the room” with the President, no one can undercut him.

Yes, in June Mr. Tenet fell on his sword to protect Mr. Bush when he took the blame for the 16 words in the State of the Union speech. Insiders believe that curried Big Favor with Team Bush.

Chief of Staff Andy Card, in a New York Times interview over the weekend, offered a rare insight into the personal relationship between the President and Director Tenet:

“Mr. Card said the director took time out from the grimness of the intelligence reports to talk about a subject dear to the president. ‘Baseball,’ Mr. Card said.

“As a C.I.A. official summed up Mr. Tenet: ‘He's not liked by everybody in the administration, but the president loves him.’"

Tenet is soon to become the second longest serving CIA Director in our history. Only the legendary Allen Dulles has served longer.

There is something wrong about a bureaucrat with a lousy record of performance continually buttering up a President and thus escaping blame for his poor record.

Unless and until the White House discards this last remnant of Clinton, they are going to suffer continuing failures.


The furor in DC surrounding the White House-CIA Leak story has already become a major distraction to the Bush agenda.

While it does not yet threaten President Bush’s re-election, it does completely pre-occupy the White House staff and it prevents the President’s message from “getting out.”

Yesterday’s daily White House press session was a total disaster. Every question was on this Leak story – and Press Secretary Scott McLeland had to leave while under siege over questions about Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby who, later on MSNBC, was basically named as one of the leakers.

So intense inside the beltway is a scandal like this that the White House staff this morning at their 7AM daily meeting is probably glad that their friend and supporter, Rush Limbaugh, has himself been caught up in two separate scandals. Why? Because it takes some of the focus – for a day at least – off the White House.

But make no mistake about it: Team Bush is in political, if not yet legal, trouble. They need to get this story off the front pages as soon as possible.

Here are the ways:

1) Fire the person(s) who did the leaking.

If indeed this person(s) is open and honest – and he/she/they aren’t covering for any higher-ups – then that might get this story cooled down.

On the other hand, if this ‘leaker’ is a very high-level aide, then the inevitable questions will keep driving this story: what did the President know and when did he know it?

2) Cave in to the Left and agree to appoint a Special Counsel/Independent Prosecutor who is above reproach.

This always works – for a while – in calming the story down. The new investigative team has to rent office space, hire staff, get security clearances etc. This all takes the story off the front pages for several months.

The problem then returns: as the investigation heats up there are leaks from all sides. And by then we are right in the middle of the 2004 presidential campaign.

3) Tough it Out, as Nixon said. Stonewall the whole thing and just hope everyone gets tired of it.

The problem with this approach is that the Washington press corps and the Democrats on Capitol Hill smell blood in the water. They simply are not going to let this scandal-in-the-making fade front the front page. Not until a Big Head rolls.

Team Bush is now caught in the vortex of a classic DC scandal: a story they cannot control, a hostile media, a campaign underway, and an issue that cuts to the supposed strength of this President Bush: his honesty and integrity.

If the President and his staff don’t get this Leak Story under control – and soon – his re-election will be in serious jeopardy.