Monday, August 09, 2004

Why the "War President" will lose

One of the main GOP talking points, which I hear repeated over and over again by right-leaning journalists (especially on AM talk radio, but in other media as well) is that George Bush is invulnerable in November because he is a "war President" and no "war President" has ever lost re-election during a "war." That may (or may not) be true, but, in general, no "war President" was ever responsible for the war. There's a pretty compelling case that George Bush wasn't watching the bubble in the days leading up to September 11th.

Does anyone think FDR was responsible for WWII, or Wilson responsible for WWI? Not really. No one ever seen the equivalent of FDR in the now notorious footage of George Bush saying "Now Watch This Drive!" right after receiving the infamous intelligence report. "Bin Laden determined to strike in United States" was the title of that report, incidentally, and it went on to say that he intended to hijack airlines and that his lackeys had enrolled in flight schools. "Now Watch This Drive" the now self-styled "War President" then went on moments later to tell reporters. The 911 commission agrees --- fault lay at many levels throughout government.

So this suggests a possible re-election strategy for future presidents. Start a war. Any war will do. Especially one that really frightens the American people. Then have your buddies at Fox News trump up how you are a "War President." No "War President" has ever lost re-election, so you will coast to a re-election victory (or so you hope).

Karl Rove, political advisor to President Bush, said it best: "[The] war is a [trojan] horse we can ride through the elections" (or something very similar).

Recall that, back in September 2001, there was consierable suspicion as to whether Bush even was the President. (Never mind the butterfly ballot, the long lines in African American districts, or the voting machines in those districts that were full of chad and had the wrong punching needle in some places. There's the issue of the felon purge lists in Florida, which were 95% in error, and, in the absence of "provisional ballots" like in other states, managed to eliminate tens of thousands of African-American voters who were legitimately entitled to vote. That was the margin of victory right there. The butterfly ballot's got plausible deniability. A felon purge list, put together by a company hired by the then-Florida Secretary of State (and chair of Bush's campaign in Florida) that's 95% in error and lists almost exclusively African-Americans (who vote 97% Democrat in Florida) with a legitimate right to vote while somehow mising almost entirely Latinos and Latino felons (who make a substancial part of Florida's prison population but do vote Republican) is hard to explain away as plausible deniability. And, of course, Jeb Bush, the brother of George Bush, was, and still is, the governor of Florida.

[By depriving poor African-Americans of the vote, incidentally, conservative Floridans watered down their own ability to influence a Presidential election and throw out an incompetent President. Incidentally, for all of this to have been possible, there must have been a lot of people in Florida who thought doing this was a good idea. You'd think that, given all that has happened in the last four years, some conservative Floridas might now realize that their right to occasionally vote Democrat might be an important one to preserve. You'd be wrong. The conservative Floridans are at it again, since they tried the felon voter purge trick again this year, again with a 95% error rate (and lost in a court challenge since it was so obviously an attempt a fraud). And we won't even go into the issues surround the controversial "new" Diebolt touch-screen voting machines here.]

So, going into September 2001, there was still the question in many minds as to whether Bush was really legitimately entitled to be President. The "President" was very unpopular, and re-election looked dubious. A war would certainly help unify the country and make re-election more likely. And Dick Cheney would make a lot of money given all the shares he still holds in Haliburton. The Bush family still had its own, rather substanical, connections to the defense industry, so everyone would do OK if there was another war. Or a terrorist attack by Bin Laden. And, anyway, George Bush was too busy playing golf in 2001 to worry about all of these things too much. "Now Watch This Drive!"

Which is why Bush won't win even if he is the "War President." Because the American people know his negligence helped bring about the "war," and they aren't going to reward him for that, nor his cronies for their smug reassurance that a "War President" cannot be defeated.