When asked if he’s ever considered campaigning for political office, Dick Morris cuts off the question in mid-sentence.
“Don’t you know that it’s unconstitutional to run for office?” the part-time Delray Beach resident notes with a mischievous grin. “The 13th amendment to the Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude.”
That hasn’t kept Morris from scoring his share of backstage passes inside the political arena. The one-time advisor and campaign manager for President Bill Clinton remains a sought-after consultant on the international stage and a go-to analyst for Fox News, where, for the past 14 years, he’s pulled no punches on programs such as “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Hannity.” In addition, Morris and wife Eileen McGann have co-authored several books, including their latest collaboration,Screwed: How Foreign Countries Are Ripping America Off and Plundering Our Economy—And How Our Leaders Help Them Do It.
His insights never cease to draw interest at home and abroad. Morris has advised and/or served as a campaign consultant to candidates in countries from Mexico and Argentina to Taiwan and the Ukraine. By his own count, he has current ties to “14 currently serving presidents and prime ministers.”
He’s also as polarizing a figure as they come, from a well-documented scandal in 1996 to the present-day grenades he lobs at the left—like his contention, following a Republican debate last winter moderated by ABC, that George Stephanopoulos was a “paid Democratic hit man.”
Love him or loathe him, Morris brings plenty to the table when it comes to an election-year conversation—which is why Boca Raton sat down with the 63-year-old over lunch at the Seagate Beach Club in Delray Beach.
The political climate seems more polarized then ever. You worked in the White House during an era where Democrats and Republicans found common ground. How did that happen?
I was born a liberal Democrat. As the 1980s wore on, I became convinced, really by Ronald Reagan, to become more of a Republican. The deciding factor for me was the threat of nuclear annihilation. I opposed everything Reagan did—I was against Star Wars, against increased defense spending, in favor of negotiations with the Russians, in favor of a test-ban treaty.
And then, all of the sudden, Russia collapsed, and we won. There was no more threat of global annihilation. That gave me an “oh” moment. I had to start rethinking my stances.
The interesting thing is that my partner in a lot of that rethinking was Bill Clinton. We were very close in the 1980s when I worked with him in Arkansas. We both looked at the Carter agenda of just writing checks, and the Reagan agenda of not, and we focused on the idea that there has to be a third way that was kind of contractual. We’ll give you health, you do public service. You take responsibility, we’ll give you opportunity.
That was the philosophy we adopted in the 1980s. That kind of accessibility to both parties was what led to our re-election strategies, which, at the time, I dubbed “triangulation”—taking the best of each party and merge it to a higher place…
To read more, pick up a copy of our September/October issue.