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October 04, 2004

George Bush, Still Better In Theory!"

Is it just me, or in the days since the first Presidential debate has the Republican stance in foreign affairs debate subtly shifted; from "George Bush is the only man we can trust to prosecute the War on Terrorism" to "Despite his pitiful record so far, George Bush won't prosecute the War on Terrorism as nearly badly as John Kerry will?"

"George Bush, Still Better In Theory!" Don't think that will do much for his poll numbers in the weeks ahead--and why should it? My feeling is that, after a long journey in the wilderness, the Democrats have finally found a theme that not only resonates with the mass of the electorate, but also plays to the base. Call it the "George Bush is too stupid to win the war," argument. "Sure," the argument goes, "he's got good intentions, but he isn't able to translate those intentions into forward progress." The subscript for the base is--of course--"because he's a goddam simpleton."

The bad news for the Democrats is, as Reuel Marc Gerecht notes in the Weekly Standard, that the critique springs from an essentially anti-war position, not a "let's win the war" position. A majority of the population could agree with the Democratic position that George Bush has made a mess of things, yet still vote for him because that party hasn't offered a realistic vision on how to clean up the mess beyond scurrying away with our tail between our legs. Rightly or wrongly the Democrats are seen as the party of retreat in a war that most Americans still want to win.

The good news that there's a sizable chunk of the electorate that is still malleable, if one counts voters planning on holding their nose and voting for Bush in November--a number I'd be willing to bet at least equals the number of Republican true believers--and all the Democratic party has to do to start wooing these voters away is to attack the administrations foreign policy from the right rather than the left. "Give the Army enough troops to win in Iraq," is one such attack. (so we can leave) is the implicit message to the base here--not that they have anywhere to go. "Quit coddling Saudi Arabia" is another.

The Bush administration's flustered answer to the first argument has been and will be that the generals on the ground haven't requested any additional troops--as if generals on the ground will risk their career by going against the administration's line, especially given the Shineski example--or as if a general's appetite for resources could ever be sated. Patton and Monty spent most of '44 and '45 demanding extra manpower and resources, as I recall. There's no reason to expect that today's generals are any less jealous of resources than those two warriors.

As to the second attack, no real answer can be forthcoming--though that would equally be true were there a Democratic administration in power. Thanks to the greasy wealth of that nation, Saudi coddling is a bipartisan activity among Washington's politicians.

Update: Was I making it all up, or was I surfing the incoming zeitgeist?

The only explanation I can find for people who believe a Kerry Presidency would not be Carterite to its core (and worse) is sheer wishful projection. It is a measure of Bush's lack of competence as a campaigner and persuader that these illusions have not been utterly shattered, and that Kerry is still in the race.


The main problem remains the failure of vision, never more evident than in the first presidential debate. The president dismissed the question about Iran by talking only about the nuclear "issue," while Senator Kerry, incredibly, restated his belief that the same policy that failed to deter North Korea would somehow work with the Iranians. The president knows who the Iranians are, while the senator is an active appeaser. But neither was inclined to deal with the central issue, which is that the Iranians, the Syrians, and the Saudis are killing our men and women in Iraq, and we are playing defense, which is a sucker's game.

Posted by Bigwig at October 4, 2004 05:59 PM | TrackBack
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Has the Bush campaign actually done something to make you think they've changed their "strategy," or are you just making this stuff up? You said "Is it just me or is the Bush camp blah blah blah." What do you base any of that on?

If there is anything resonating with voters it's that they finally got to see John Kerry, and he performed well. I've yet to see any polling data to show that his strategy for Iraq is changing people's minds.

Posted by: Nathan at October 4, 2004 07:03 PM

I'm just making stuff up. Surprised you had to ask, really.

Posted by: Bigwig at October 4, 2004 07:26 PM

The Democrats could offer all the "vision" they wanted of being to the Right of Bush on the WOT.

The problem is, nobody would believe them for a second. If Lieberman had been nominated (yeah, I know), and campaigned on it from day one (along the lines of "I know the President's trying to do the right thing, and he's not doing too bad, but I think he's wrong about [specifics], and when elected I'm gonna fix them by [specific courses of action]."), then such a line could be plausibly believed.

But not from Kerry, not now.

Posted by: Sigivald at October 5, 2004 01:40 PM
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