Thursday, March 04, 2004

What it comes down to

Andrew Sullivan:

[...] My own disillusionment with the president is not, despite appearances, all to do with marriage. I first worried with the aircraft carrier stunt, the post-war mess in Iraq, then the fiscal insouciance, and the more general bossiness that this unlibertarian president was exhibiting. The message chaos of the least few months, capped by that dreadful Meet the Press interview, was unnerving, to say the least. The solution? We need to hear what our future strategy is in the war: who we're targeting next. We need to see more clarity on Iraq, more commitment on al Qaeda, more explanation of what we're doing and where we're going. I'm tired with hearing recitations of the president's past conduct and want to hear more about the future. Churchill didn't spend 1943 reminding people of what a great leader he had been in 1940. In contrast, the first Bush campaign ads are all retrospective, nostalgic even. If they're the campaign, he'll lose.

I'm not one to engage in the kind of neener-neener-told-you-so comments I've seen around the blogosphere in response to Sully's growing disillusion with Dubya. It is always painful when ones heroes turn out to be less (much less) than what you thought they were and it really doesn't benefit anyone to rub it in his face.

Of course, I've never been the recipient of caustic criticism from Sullivan (other than the general "blue-state fifth columnists" crap).

Having said that, I think Andrew is on to something important here about Bush's inherent weakness on what is supposed to be his signature issue (national security). Bush can't rely on the glories of the past if he is going to win re-election. The American people are fickle and even the flush of war-time victories can fade in the light of more pressing and immediate difficulties (how about that job picture Mr. President?) In such a situation, Bush can't rely on the fence-sitters coming to his aid if his entire message is "I did great things for you yesterday."

Their natural response, as Andrew ably demonstrates, is going to be, "Yeah, but what are going to do for me today? And what about tomorrow?"

No President can hope to coast to re-election. Especially one as inherently weak but supernaturally lucky as Bush is.

As of right now, the 2004 presidential election may come to a contest of which candidate screws up the least.


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