If I am one of the serious contenders gunning for George Bush’s job in 2004, I will exercise a lot more caution than normal because that guy is one hell of a sneaky tactician and ambush genius who is very good at pulling the rug from under an opponent, especially when he figures it out, that that opponent has something going for him. He goes for the jugular, and he almost always has the last laugh.
I was and I still remain a volunteer freelance consultant for my Party, the Democratic Party of the United States. I warned the Gore Campaigns in all my frequent dispatches to them in 2000, to please beware of Bush before and after he became the Republican candidate, and beating a War hero, John McCain to the punch. The Gore campaign did not listen to me and others, much to their own peril. George Bush is particularly lethal because he also has one critical factor going for him, that many are not aware of, and can do very little about even if they know. He almost always has Luck on his side, which can sometimes make the difference between life and death, and between success and failure in Politics as in Life in general.
I have often wondered if President Bush really meant some of the negative aspersions he used to cast on Bill Clinton when he started running for President. I thought he privately admired some of the virtues of Bill Clinton without admitting it in so many words or that he was merely playing politics or playing up to the gallery to solidify his appeal to his conservative base who, passionately dislike, Bill Clinton, and have never wished him well. With three or more years of George Bush in the oval office, I can confidently say the answer is a little bit of all of the above. I say so because we all know and George Bush himself knows he got into the White House by a constitutional fluke, because he did, in fact, lose the 2000 Election to Al Gore.
He and his strategists in the Republican Party had succeeded in setting up Al Gore in making him believe that if he allowed the 800 pounds Gorilla in Bill Clinton to appear side by side with him on the Campaign trail, he should forget any chance of a victory in 2000. That was a set up, and it was a white lie that had cost Al Gore his victory in a few critical Southern States like Arkansas in particular and in Tennessee, but more so in Florida that had become the very last battle ground. I told the Gore Campaign so, in so many dispatches which they simply dismissed with the wave of the hand much to our candidate’s painful loss in that election. I thought it was better not to win the popular vote, if you are not going to win the Electoral College tally. What makes America unique is the awesomeness of those who devised or crafted the American Constitution to include that uncanny provision. I salute their ingenuity.
I still remember how George Bush had deliberately decided to lower peoples’ expectation about his readiness for prime time and his ability to get into a debate with Al Gore who was a Policy wong and a debate genius who had made a red meat of the bright and loquacious Ross Perot and the aggressive Dan Quail in the previous Election circle. The three debates were supposed to be a cake walk for Gore. But the sneaky Bush had ambushed Gore by making him feel overconfident, and pulling off a “Rope a dope” on him in much the same way like Mohammed Ali had pulled a fast one on a heavier and stronger George Foreman who had the wherewithal to finish Ali, but failed to deliver, because Ali was just too sneaky that night. I was myself an eyewitness to that once in a life time bout because I was in Zaire on a foreign mission for Nigeria, and saw the bout with my own eyes.
I was one of the thousands of Boxing fans shouting “Ali, Bo ma ye” meaning, “Ali, kill him” because Ali, as part of his ambush antics, had made majority of us in that arena, believe that night, that George Foreman was not just an uncle Tom, but a white guy fighting a black man in a black man’s country. I cannot now explain how that came about, but all I knew was that George foreman’s skin color did no longer matter that night. That was how good Ali was “sneak and sting” business. He, Ali, had also tried to pull the same magic with Smoking Joe Frazier in his first bout with him, when he whispered to his ears, “Mr. ugly Bear, you are fighting God tonight.” If Joe Frazier had allowed that whisper to distract him, Ali could have won that fight like he frequently did to others. I am recalling both of these stories just to illustrate how George Bush was able to fool Al Gore. All that Bush had needed to win that debate was merely to show up, and not commit any gaffe. The pressure or the burden on Al Gore was much greater, and George Bush went back home looking like a David against a Goliath. It is the same scenario that the nine democratic candidates struggling to dethrone George Bush are facing today. I can tell you, knowing George Bush, as much as I do, that these candidates all have their job cut out for them. You can take that from me, and here are my reasons.
When you are President of America, you are a one man Battalion because the resources and leverage open to you are powerful, limitless and simply amazing. You can be sure that Dubya who fully understands how to flaunt and use his presidential power to the highest limit possible, is not going to shy away from it. He, George Bush as a private citizen and under normal circumstances, cannot untie the laches of the shoes of candidates like General Wesley Clark who graduated first in his class at Westpoint or John Kerry, a War hero and a Purple heart winner. But when it comes to being sneaky, you can take it that George Bush is a Four Star General who will stop at nothing, because he is determined to really prove, for once, that he can win neat and square, without cutting corners like he did with those “chads and dimples” in Florida, and when he and the very conservative Justices in the Supreme Court had ruled by a margin of 5 to 4 votes to let sleeping dogs lie, and just declare him the winner because counting the votes for accuracy was a waste of time. Can you believe that? That was how luck George Bush was. Next point.
I am telling you now that George Bush has always been a genius in ambush tactics. He did it against his own brother the present Governor of Florida. Jeb Bush was believed even by George Senior and Barbara to be the one that would first follow in the footsteps of their own father and Grand father, Prescott Bush of Connecticut. That was not to be, because the great George W. had turned 180 degrees, to overcome his early juvenile indiscretion, and youthful exuberance’s to claim back from Jeb what Destiny had initially bestowed on him as the first son, much to the great pleasure and joy of George Senior and Barbara. I guess if he could do it to Jeb, he would not think twice before doing to a Howard Dean, or Wesley Clark and a John Kerry or a Dick Gephardt or a John Edward.
I guess we could call George Bush an opportunist which is not necessarily a bad word for anybody who is a President in a Land of opportunity that America has become to the world. George Bush is very good at turning a disappointment or a tragedy into an opportunity if you let him, and he is very good at “Damage Control” as a President. The attack by terrorists on the Twin Towers on 9/11 in 2001 was supposed to be a tragedy of outrageous and limitless proportions for any President in office when it happened. But because, he was leading the most sensible country and people on Earth who are always stronger and more united in the face of adversity or War, and because his leadership reflexes like those of Guilliani, the brave Mayor of New York and New Yorkers were superb, George Bush had seized on the tragedy to define his Presidency and style of leadership. I give him kudos for that, but I must seize that opportunity to remind his challengers never again to underrate him like Gore had done.
Bush is a man who will publicly distance himself from Bill Clinton’s policies in office, and goes in private and secrecy to start adopting some of the same policies, and taking credit for it. The Social Security, and the Medicaid and Medicare reforms are a few of such examples. Even though the devil is in the details of the newly passed Medicare Reform, as Americans say, Bush is today riding high on some of the ideas he has stolen from the Democrats. Just look at his recent trip to Baghdad under the cover of darkness, to express solidarity with the troops, and how he did it, using the awesome power and leverage of the President to make it look like a real spectacular event, that polls always respond to in this country. It was using a stone to kill two birds. He had used that trip to neutralize the huge publicity and mileage that Hillary would have gotten out of her own trip to Iraq around the same time. Not even Laura was allowed to know what was really in the works until the President was shown on Television in Baghdad carrying a make-believe plate of Turkey. That was a stunner, and the Democrats can expect many more of that from the Sneaker-in-Chief as the Elections get closer and closer.
The struggle for the Independent voters and the Hispanic and Black voters in America is going to be another focus of Bush in the coming Election. As an ultra conservative, George Bush has little interest in Liberal causes around the country, but he would pretend he is their greatest champion by going for shadows and peripheries rather than substance, to convince those interest groups he is there for them. He did it in Texas in his epic battle with Ann Richard, and he had the last laugh. He would gladly do the same thing again as President. You watch. He had deliberately invited the new Latin/American Music idol, Martin, to play at his inaugural ball, because he was hoping to convince the Hispanics, they have a friend in the White House. All he was doing was to steal or polarize the Hispanic vote. As soon as he took his hands of the Bible at the Swearing-in Ceremony, the very next day, he was on his way to Mexico to woo and win President Vincente Fox, and thousands of Hispanic voters to his side. He now speaks a few Spanish words at every opportunity to show off his bilingual ability and to convince the Hispanics, he is their man.
When it comes to picking peoples’ brains, I can tell you no American President in recent memory, does it better than George Bush. Why? Because he himself is a light weight, and he knows it, and how to brilliantly compensate for that. He took a Bachelor’s degree at Yale and an MBA at Harvard long before he ever ran for public office, because he knew what that can do, and has done to his resume public image when he started running for public office as Governor or President. They asked him in one of the debates with Gore who his role model in Politics was, he, instantaneously named Winston Churchill. Asked about his role model in Life, he named Jesus Christ. How can you ever beat that answer with the Christian Right? George Bush may not be the smartest Professor you ever meet. But one point is crystal clear. He is not a dummy, and he would sneak out on you in a heartbeat, if you let him.
He is a great expert in changing a topic that he figures, does not favor him, and he would do it without any of his opponents having the backbone to, at least, let the nation know he has changed the topic. So he gets away with so many things because his opponents have gone to sleep with both eyes closed.
When the Afghanistan War first started, George Bush had framed the war in a way for Americans to believe that the immediate goal was Osama Bin Laden. But as Osama Bin Laden was becoming so elusive to get, the Commander-in-Chief had made a U-turn. Osama then became the ultimate goal and not the immediate goal anymore. Fighting terrorism all over the World was now the goal and before you could say Jack Robinson, preemptive strike of perceived enemies had become the real goal he now wants the whole nation to believe. George Bush is an expert at moving the goal post, and he is often allowed to get away with it unlike Bill Clinton who was criticized by the Republicans, and blackmailed ever so often.
George Bush’s genius was getting the majority in Congress to give him a blank check which is why Howard Dean is surging in the opinion polls today, as the first and perhaps the only Democratic candidate minus Kucinich, to see that the Emperor was in deed naked or half naked. You can be sure that George Bush and his ambush machine is progressively going to go after Howard Dean and tarnish him if he becomes unstoppable, as he well may be by the first quarter of 2004, because he is currently the only candidate with enough dough to survive the onslaught when the Bush machine pounces on him. Howard Dean and to some extent Dick Gephardt and Wesley Clark and John Kerry and John Edward are the only candidates talking the talk and walking the walk right now? Al Sharpton is hitting the nail at the head, as he normally does, which is fine. But my guess is that Al is not running to be President. He is running to make a point and in that unique sense, I believe he has been very successful, if you ask me. He is running to change his public image from that of a rabble rouser to that of the legitimate successor to Jesse Jackson’s legacy before Jesse Jackson Junior will be ready to fight for that title. That is my hunch.
Before I end this article, I want my readers to know that part of my goal in this article copy of which I am going to wire to the Democratic Leadership Council as well as each of the candidates, and the Chairman of the Democratic Party, is just to alert them to all the points I am making here, if they are not already aware of them. To beat George Bush in a General Election is an attainable and desirable goal, but we have to identify his Achilles feet, and go for them without tearing ourselves apart and exposing our vulnerabilities to George Bush and his hatchet men.
The quagmire in Iraq, and the hypothesis made famous by Ali in Boxing that if you kill the head the body will fall, may not totally and neatly apply to Iraq where the calculation of George Bush is that if you convincingly defeat Iraq and bring her over into the Democratic fold, the other axis of Evil, namely, Iran and Syria and North Korea and of course Saudi Arabia will come on board or take a hike, and the State of Israel and the rest of the free world, will therefore have a peace of mind. That is a faulty presumption and just a wishful thinking at best, if you listen to or read the viewpoints of the other side, as framed by one Professor Tariq Ali whose new book, titled “Bush in Babylon – The Recolonization of Iraq” that I have just read, and other viewpoints of people that matter in that Region, including those of Thomas Friedman and the eloquent and charismatic King Abdullah of Jordan, and of course Shimon Peres, a one time Defense Minister and Prime Minister of the Great State of Israel.
George Bush clearly has other vulnerabilities that can be fully exploited to send him back to Crawford in 2004 if the duo of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark or Graham of Florida which could be a dream team to emerge from the Primaries, could do their home work very thoroughly, and also lay ambush for Bush before he gets them. I strongly believe that Bush is beatable, if we do it right. It is not going to be easy. But it is perfectly within the realm of possibility. The Democrats must not allow Bush to put the George McGovern label on our best hope for the White House in 2004.
I rest my case.