He has been called the “Stealth Strategist” and the “Invisible Adviser” by the press. But his impact as a top outside political consultant, to President Clinton since January has been anything but invisible.
Dick Morris is his name and he is a switch-hitter, a mind for hire who has served extremist Republicans like Senators Jesse Helms and Trent Lott and one Governor Bill Clinton in Arkansas.
So far, he has persuaded Clinton to propose a balanced budget plan to Congress so that the President can credibly reject a cruelly or faked balanced budget by the Republicans in Congress. Morris got Clinton to start tough-on-street-crime political advertisements on television long before Presidential re-election campaigns usually do.
The Connecticut-based analyst believes in drawing bright lines between the politician he advises and his opponents.
People have long been fed up with tweedledee and tweedledum politicians. They want a real choice or choices. Absent that, many voters stay home. Clinton has been the classic “me too, but not quite” President vis-à-vis the Republicans in Congress on too many issues. This may have unsettled the Dole-Gingrich forces but it has been harmful to the interests of the people back home.
So perhaps, Dick Morris is just what the Doctor ordered. Describing himself as “mean” but not “dirty”, Morris has lots of opportunities to paint the Republicans as the Party of Big Business and the Democrats as the Party of the People.
For example, it is becoming increasingly clear that the last two years of Clinton’s term will be defined by his vetoes of cruel and costly Republican-passed legislation. However, thus far he has only vetoed one bill and is reluctant to exercise his veto power the way Reagan and Bush did so profusely.
Does Morris’ penchant for drawing bright lines mean vetos of legislation that weakens the rights of wrongfully injured people to have their day in court (mis-named tort reform) or a bill to hamstring defrauded small investors and savers from recovering their monies from big and little financial crooks?
Such veto policies seem logical from a tactical viewpoint. But anyone who manages to find a book titled BumRap on America’s Cities by Richard Morris, dated 1978, can also find a pattern of belief decrying such power grabs by the powerful against innocent ordinary citizens.
In many ways, this book tells much about the way Dick Morris’ mind works. He makes connections between patterns of events, lots of connections. Written during his early thirties after several years as an urban economic analyst in New York city, BumRap attacked head-on right-wing claims that the cities are in trouble because of their liberalism. If he still hews to these views, Morris may advise his client, Bill Clinton, how to rebut Newt Gingrich who blames every thing from the soaring expenses of the health care industry to urban decay on the “liberal welfare state.”
Morris paid attention to profits and banks, to how little of the poverty program expenditures ever get past the merchants, providers and bureaucrats to the people in need. He wrote:
“The deficits of our urban governments are caused more by profiteering in the welfare and Medicaid program by the real estate, nursing home, medical equipment, medical education, social service, and hospital administration industries.” These are “the true welfare cheats,” he concludes after many pages of documentation.
“The fiscal instability of the American city,” he wrote, “dates not from a bank decision to avoid the risky bonds of fiscally irresponsible city administrations, but from the banking industry’s desire to abandon cities for more profitable forms of investment well before any basis for fiscal insecurity emerged. The decline in urban housing is not the product of liberal social policies or regulation of urban rentals, but rather is due to the refusal of banks to lend mortgages in American cities, which is, in turn, caused in part by the refusal of the federal government to insure such mortgages.”
His book focused on northeastern cities, which explains why he made so much of the outflow of federal taxes from these cities to Washington compared to what is returned from Washington. But his chapters on “The Medicaid Mess” and “The Bank Strike” reveal his views and the intricate way he thinks and weaves causes into effects into causes.
A man of many antennas beamed toward politicians of widely varying practices, Dick Morris now perches his antenna from the White House. Capitol Hill Republicans, who once were served by Morris, now know, to their serious unease, that his antenna is now beamed at them.