Dick Morris, one of the most influential behind-the-scenes players in American political history, addressed members of the Lipscomb & Pitts-sponsored "Breakfast Club" group at the Botanic Gardens on Friday and treated them to what was a highly idiosyncratic -- one might say "neo-conservative" -- view of history. In Morris's reckoning, for example, the primary onus for the Great Depression of the 1930s lay not on the stock market crash of 1929 but on a 1932 decision by President Herbert Hoover - "that idiot" - to raise taxes.
The diminutive consultant, whose clients range across national as well as political boundaries, may be best known for devising the theory of "triangulation," whereby Democrat Bill Clinton, after a landslide Republican win in the 1994 congressional elections, was able to play both ideological ends against the middle, thereby salvaging his presidency and going on to win a second term in 1996.
It got no mention at Friday's meeting of the breakfast group, which brings together organizations from across the local civic and business spectrum, but Morris' advisory relationship with both Bill and Hillary Clinton came to a crashing end at the moment of his greatest influence. That came just before the Democratic National Convention in 1996 in Chicago. when Morris was embarrassingly exposed as having had a toe-sucking relationship with a prostitute, whom he had allowed to listen in on his telephone conversations with the president.
From that point on, Morris' politics, already rightward-tending, grew progressively more so, leading to a political as well a personal estrangement from the Clintons -- whom he has since denounced in several books and articles - and to an ultra-conservative credo which he shared with his breakfast audience on Friday.
In Morris' view, for example, Republican presidential candidate John McCain 's short-lived recent "suspension" of his presidential campaign would have made sense only if McCain had gone to Washington to campaign against the emergency bailout package that, supported tacitly by both McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama, was subsequently adopted by both houses of Congress.
"Capitalism on the way up, socialism on the way down" was how Morris characterized the likelihood of increasing government control over the economy. He saw the financial crisis of October as having nullified the slight edge McCain had earned over rival Obama with his naming of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential running mate.
As readers of an account of Palin's selection in the current New Yorker know, Morris had become one of the prime movers of Palin's rise to prominence after meeting her last year. Crediting her with "Intuitive integrity, independence, courage, and self-confidence, " Morris said Friday, "An absolute star was born in American politics in Sarah Palin."
Grinning wide, Morris termed McCain's unexpected selection of Palin as "the greatest head-fake that has ever been pulled in the history of American politics." He explained it this way: After word was carefully put out that McCain would be going with former rival Mitt Romney, Obama had then shied away from "'her,' and you know who 'her' is, Hillary Cliton," and was trapped into giving the nod to the "dull" Joe Biden. "It was so cool!"
Morris expressed misgivings about the prospect of Obama becoming president - warning against what he saw as the Democrat's openness to imposing additional taxes and against Obama's putative disposition, "as a constitutional law professor," to modify provisions of the Patriot Act. The Brooklyn Bridge might have been demolished by terrorists but for clandestine federal wiretaps that allowed authorities to smell out and defense an organized plot against the bridge, Morris maintained.
Equally vexing to Morris was the prospect that the current government intervention in the economy might become permanent. Morris conceded that some sort of government action was necessary but cautioned, "The Fire Department has to get back to the firehouse."
Morris suggested that whoever wins the presidency will end up having to function essentially like a trustee in a bankruptcy. Post-election, both houses of Congress are likely to be the most liberal since the time of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and they'll want to spend freely but won't be able to, he said. "The money walked out of the house two weeks ago."