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Jewish World Review June 24, 2003 / 24 Sivan, 5763

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
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Consumer Reports

Dick Morris, consultant for hire, reveals the inside story | Political consultant-for-hire Dick Morris knows more about how major league politics is played -- and fought -- by both major parties than almost anyone. He helped Bill Clinton win re-election in 1996, and he's consulted for Republicans Trent Lott and Tom Ridge.

Now a Fox News Channel analyst and columnist, Morris has written "Off With Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business," a lively attack on the bums he says are bringing him and the country down. I talked with him by telephone on Tuesday:

Q: Before we get to the real serious stuff, what do you think of Hillary Clinton's book "Living History"?

A: Well, it's selling really well, but I question the editorial judgment of those who list it as a best-seller under nonfiction, as opposed to fiction.

Q: Do you still think she will run for president in 2008?

A: Yes, I do. I think she's very likely to get the Democrats' nomination and I think she has a very good chance of winning. I think the order of presidential succession in the United States could well be Bush-Clinton, Bush-Clinton.

Q: You cover a lot of ground and hit a lot of targets. Who are the chief crooks -- I know we can't get to them all.

A: The major corruption in the book concerns the Wall Street scandals, where essentially Chris Dodd, the Democrat senator from Connecticut, and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Phil Gramm, the long-term, now-retired Republican senator from Texas, cooked up the Securities Reform Act of 1995.

Basically, it permitted Arthur Anderson and Enron to lie their pants off, and not have any culpability for it. It said, for example, that no matter how misleading a projection you make of the future of a company, if you include certain boilerplate language, you can't be held accountable for it. ...

One of the things I cover in the book is that Clinton made a big deal of vetoing that bill, but in conversations with him before and while he was vetoing it, he made clear to me that he had told Chris Dodd that it was OK to over-ride his veto.

That was the first over-ride through three years into his term of the entire Clinton presidency, and it was on a bill where essentially he was very anxious to curry favor with the Silicon Valley-types, who knew they had defrauded investors up the whazoo in their own Internet stuff.

He was very anxious to get their contributions, so he vetoed the bill to pose as a consumer advocate while winking at Chris Dodd, saying it's OK to over-ride.

Q: You say Clinton was "active, astute, aware and alive" on welfare reform, balancing the budget and crime but "was AWOL on terrorism." How so?

A: There were four or five things he could have done that I spell out which would have very likely averted 9/11. Start with the fact that in 1993, this same gang, al-Qaida, attacked the same target -- the World Trade Center -- with the same goal, which was to topple the building.

He treated it like a bank robbery, like a normal homicide -- round up the guys that did it and punish them. But there was no specific investigative focus. In fact, the head of the CIA indicated that during the entire years of '93 and '94 he never had a private meeting with the president to discuss those issues.

Then if you go a little further, the result was we did not know who Osama bin Laden was until 1996. And had we known it in 1994 or 1995, when the Sudanese offered bin Laden to us, we would have accepted and taken him, and he would be safely deposited in a U.S. jail by now. ...

Q: What are your politics, your core beliefs?

A: Well, I'm a New Yorker. And I'm Jewish. And both of those make me very, very focused on terrorism. I can feel those two missing World Trade Center towers like molars in my own mouth. I have always felt that the war on terror is absolutely crucial.

In fact, in my book "Behind the Oval Office," which I wrote in January of 1997, I quote a 1996 conversation with Clinton where I told him that I felt that his place in history rested on three things: "balancing the budget, reforming welfare and winning the war on terror by breaking the back of the terrorist nations militarily." That's a quote.

So all during the administration I was pushing that. As you indicated, I think Clinton did a magnificent job on a range of domestic policy issues. I think his record on terrorism was terrible.

Q: Are you a Democrat or a Republican or both?

A: I'm an independent. I hate both parties equally. I think the Republican is run by the NRA, the Christian Coalition and is dominated by intolerance. I think the Democratic Party is the wholly owned subsidiary of the AFL-CIO, the labor unions and various other special interests. I think that both of these parties are crooked to the core.

Q: What does it say about the two major parties or you yourself that you can work for both of them?

A:Well, I never actually worked for the parties, I worked for individuals. And the people I worked for, for the most part, were people who tended to oppose the mainstream in their own political party. Tom Ridge, for example, being pro-choice, was a client of mine. Bill Weld (of Massachusetts). Bill Clinton, as a moderate Democrat.

But I do have to say that when I worked as a political consultant in the U.S., I was making a living. I worked for people who paid me. I tried not to work for, you know, anyone who ate children with their bare hands. I won't pretend that I was ideologically consistent.

Since I left the Clinton administration, I've tried to be a commentator and reflect my own personal views. The other thing is, nobody could go through the experiences I've been through without fundamentally changing their priorities, their values, their view of life, their spiritual view. I don't want to go into that at any length, but I'm quite a different person (laughs) than I was in the '80s and '90s.

Q: What should Americans know about big-time politics and how it works that they don't know but you do?

A: Well, I think that the politicians delight in pulling off deals that the public has no knowledge about. I think there's no better example of that than the reapportionment deal I talk about in the book, where essentially the Democrat and Republican parties got together and decided to make the House of Representatives an unelected institution.

They essentially made it comparable to the House of Lords in Britain. By drawing the lines in such a way that all the Democrat districts were loaded with Democrats and all the Republican districts were loaded with Republicans, so that no incumbent could be defeated from either party.

The Democrats essentially went to the Republicans in a variety of states and said, "We will give up the chance to control Congress for the next 10 years if you guarantee lifetime tenure for our incumbents."

Q: Both parties seem to be pretty happy to share power for their own ends and do what they need to do to keep it.

A: The only reason the Senate is competitive is that you can't gerrymander state lines (laughs).

Q: Are there still some serious, shocking things we have yet to hear about the Clintons?

A: Yeah (laughs), they make news every day. They haven't stopped.

Q: Will you be revealing any more of them in your lifetime?

A: Well, there are one or two that are still there, that for various reasons I've not gone public with, to protect innocent other people. But listen, the Clintons will be a never-ending source of amusement and entertainment for the American people.

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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

06/20/03: Move over, Hillary. Here comes a better work of fiction
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02/21/03: Terrorism one of many losing battles
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02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald