In Defense of Dick Morris

By Sean Kerrigan
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Out of all the pundits who regularly appear on Fox News, Dick Morris is probably the most entertaining. That said, Morris’s entertainment value is only partially based on his predictions. His past makes him a hated target of Democrats which always adds a bit of interest to his presentation, but his insight on the American psyche should be admired even by them.

A liberal turned moderate turned conservative, Morris was vital in organizing President Bill Clinton’s pivot to the political center after the Republican ‘Revolution’ in 1994. Without him or someone like him, its possible Clinton would have lost reelection in 1996.

Clinton reluctantly signed welfare reform in 1996 despite exaggerated condemnations from his political allies in Congress that the law would “destroy welfare as we know it.” Later that year Clinton took it a step further and declared “the era of big government is over.” For most Americans, it sealed the deal and lead to a comfortable victory in 1996.

The cover that proves Time Magazine has no taste.

After his messy exit from the administration, Morris gradually increased his open criticism of Clinton in the press, but the two remained reasonably close until at least 1998. In the midst of the Lewinsky scandal, the president famously asked Morris to conduct a poll to determine if Americans would accept his resignation if he offered it. When Morris returned with a response in the affirmative, Clinton said, “Well, we'll just have to win, then.”

Morris’s criticism became more intense during the Ken Starr’s grand jury investigation and their relationship (at least publicly) has been animus ever since.

Since then, Morris has made a career as a political pundit, regularly appearing on Fox News’s conservative Hannity and the center right O’Reilly Factor. His predictions are wrong at least occasionally, some of which is to be expected when making very specific predictions. Still, he’s developed a reputation for making inaccurate predictions over the years, especially with regard to electoral tallies.

Still, Morris’s predictions are stunningly accurate when based on America’s working class values, or what Reagan called “that simple soul” that doesn’t see the world through the glasses of Washington’s political culture.

Just after President Obama’s inauguration in January of 2009, Morris predicted “Obama's name will be mud by 2012 and probably by 2010 as well. And the Republican Party will make big gains and regain much of its lost power.”

At a time when Obama was riding high at nearly 70 percent approval, Morris’s comments were mocked and dismissed as the wailing of a depressed conservative seeing his party increasingly marginalized, but now they seem almost prophetic.

More recently, Morris was the first to argue that both the House and Senate would flip to Republican control in the 2010 midterm. When first proposed, it was considered preposterous even by GOP spin doctors. Even Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele initially predicted the Republicans wouldn’t even be able to take the house, let alone the more difficult Senate.

Waking up today we know that Morris was incorrect in his Senate takeover prediction, but that the Senate was even in play this year was considered a long shot by almost everyone until July when Tea Party candidates began unexpectedly surging. Many thought the Republicans might have peaked too early, yet Morris saw the biggest part of the wave was still coming.

He’s still predicting Obama will have a 2012 primary challenge from his old foil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We’ll see.

Further Reading:
Dick Morris Official Site
Washington Post on the Morris/Clinton Relationship

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