Joe Conason's Journal

Dick Morris' odd advice. Plus: A correction from the National Review. Can Newt be next?

By Salon Staff

Published October 29, 2002 11:19AM (EST)

Polls dropping? Invade Iraq!
Bush's recent slide in the polls is worrying Dick Morris, the former Clinton political strategist who now provides analysis for Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and Fox News. A born-again conservative, Morris frets that the Iraq ploy isn't working for the White House anymore. "By campaigning for Republican candidates around the nation, Bush seems to be undermining the case for a military emergency requiring immediate action against Iraq," he writes in today's Post. Morris recalls that the last time a president's numbers took such a midterm dive was during the fall of 1994, just before the Republicans won control of the House for the first time in four decades. Clinton used to joke about the wacky ideas proposed by his eccentric advisor, but the agitated Morris goes even further this time.

"To salvage his chances of victory, Bush needs to stop campaigning, stop futzing with the U.N. and start to re-create a national sense of urgency about Iraq and terror in general. He needs to set a deadline by which time America will open fire in Iraq, and begin moving troops there to enforce it." The October surprise is supposed to happen before Halloween, so it's unlikely that Karl Rove will be heeding this bizarre advice.

Nor should Democrats get too excited about his pessimism over Republican prospects. Two years ago, Morris predicted repeatedly that Hillary Clinton (someone he has known for more than 20 years) wouldn't run for the Senate. When she ran, he predicted with great confidence that she would never win in New York (where he has worked in politics since the late '60s). As they say in Arkansas, she beat the Republican like a rented mule.

Rueful Ponnuru
It is my happy duty to report that Ramesh Ponnuru posted a correction of his canards about Mondale and Social Security on the NRO site yesterday, although not in the most prominent spot. "I wrote that Walter Mondale had supported private accounts for Social Security and an increase in the retirement age. Wrong, wrong, wrong," he admits. "I should have known it was too good to be true." Now it's Newt's turn.

"It's all politics, Bubba"
Molly Ivins is always very good. Her column today, discussing why people ought to vote even when the candidates stink, is brilliant.
[3:03 p.m. PDT, Oct. 29, 2002]

Newt-speak and National Review
A nominally objective, mainstream daily newspaper probably wouldn't publish this headline: "Gingrich Emits Flatulent Lie on Sunday TV Show." Certainly the Washington Post won't run it, because if the paper's editors were so inclined they could well have topped Terry M. Neal's story with that headline late yesterday.

The lie was uttered on last Sunday's installment of "Meet the Press," where Gingrich poured scorn over a certain Minnesota Democrat: "Walter Mondale chaired a commission that was for the privatization of Social Security worldwide," said Newt (who posted the transcript conveniently on his vanity Web site). "He chaired a commission that was for raising the retirement age dramatically." Then the former speaker went on to predict that "what you'll see on the Republican side is an issue-oriented campaign that says, you know, if you want to raise your retirement age dramatically and privatize Social Security, Walter Mondale is a terrifically courageous guy to say that."

After quoting Gingrich, Neal revealed that Mondale's publicly stated position is precisely the opposite of what Gingrich ascribed to him. (As did Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo.) Is anyone surprised? Just to hear Gingrich holding forth in that familiar old confident tone should have been a clue that he either didn't know what he was talking about or was lying.

National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru pushed the same fraudulent story about the former vice president on CNN's "Late Edition" that same day. He called Mondale "a major advocate of President Bush's position on Social Security, which is something that I think, once it becomes more public, is going to alienate some Wellstone Democrats ... He's in favor of private accounts for Social Security and raising the retirement age." Ponnuru reiterated the same point yesterday on NRO, where he cites "an AP report from earlier this year." Ponnuru gets a D for deception and an F for effort: The report he is misquoting, insofar as Mondale is concerned, may be found quite easily here. (Google retrieved it in 0.65 seconds.) Or Ponnuru could have strolled over to 18th and K streets, where CSIS would probably have given him a copy for free.

Incidentally, and the Gingrich Group are both sites that offer a lot of nostalgic entertainment. Particularly delightful is the lengthy bio, where readers can learn that "Speaker Gingrich" (as he still refers to himself) is "recognized worldwide as an expert on world history, military issues and international affairs"; that he is currently attached at the lip to every right-wing sugar-tit within 50 miles of the Capitol; and that he has, of course, opened an office for consulting and lobbying.
[8:23 a.m. PDT, Oct. 29, 2002]

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