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JEFF JACOBY

Why Koch is on Bush’s bandwagon

ED KOCH identifies himself with pride as a lifelong Democrat. The former New York City councilman, congressman, and three-term mayor says his values have always been those of the broad Democratic center -- the values of FDR and Harry Truman, of Hubert Humphrey and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He disdains the Republican worldview as cold and unfeeling -- "I made it on my own, and you should, too." The Democratic philosophy, by contrast, he sums up as: "If you need a helping hand, we'll provide it." No surprise, then, that Koch disagrees with George W. Bush on just about every domestic issue, from taxes to marriage to prescription drugs.

But he's voting for him in November.

"I've never before supported a Republican for president," Koch told me last week. "But I'm doing so this time because of the one issue that trumps everything else: international terrorism. In my judgment, the Democratic Party just doesn't have the stomach to stand up to the terrorists. But Bush is a fighter."

Koch was surprised and impressed by Bush's resolve after Sept. 11. "He announced the Bush Doctrine -- he said we would go after the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. And he's kept his word." Koch doubts that the leadership of his own party could have mustered the grit to topple the Taliban or drive Saddam Hussein from power, let alone to press on in what is going to be a long and grinding conflict.

"Already, most of the world is caving. If you didn't have Bush standing there, you'd have everybody following Spain and the Philippines" in retreat, he says, trying to appease the terrorists instead of fighting them.

How much of his party does Koch speak for? We won't know for sure until Election Day, when exit polls help gauge how many Democrats crossed party lines to support Bush. But Koch knows he's not the only Democrat to regard the war against militant Islam as the most critical issue of the campaign. And he doesn't think he was the only one dismayed by what he saw at the Democratic convention in July.

From Michael Moore's seat of honor next to Jimmy Carter, to the thunderous applause that greeted Howard Dean, to the 9 out of 10 delegates who want to pull the plug on Iraq, the convention exposed the radical antiwar mindset that dominates the Democratic Party leadership.

But hasn't Kerry pledged to stay in Iraq and to go after the terrorists? "That's what he says to appeal to moderates and conservatives during the campaign," Koch replies. But the party activists who nominated him would compel him to back down once he was in office. The people now running the Democratic Party want no part of the war, and "when the chips are down, Kerry will do what they want."   Continued...

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