Sunday | June 22, 2003
Dwarves and midgets
The political press makes a habit of denigrating Democratic candidates running against Republican presidents. In 1992, the entire field was denigrated as the seven dwarves who had no chance against President Bush.
The fact that Clinton won with a fairly large margin only began eight years of contempt for the man and his administration, while many of his critics grew richer as a result of his policies.
Bickering over how a candidate sounds on one talk show or another misses the point. The media is fundamentally misreading this election, as they have misread other elections. Why? Because most political reporters have no idea how spoonfed they are and how they're manipulated by the campaigns. The operatives feed reporters stories about this candidate or that and then they launch their attacks.
All of these reporters have biases, if not agendas. Take Tim Russert. While he may have thought he was going after Hillary Clinton, his performance at the first Senatorial debate between her and then Congressman Rick Lazio gave her a leg up with suburban women. Why? Because he asked her point blank about her husband's affair. A wildly inappropriate question, but one which emboldened Lazio to start screaming at her.
Watching this, I saw what a gold mine this was for Clinton. Why? She's a slight woman, thin, short, and no matter what you think of her politics, you recoil when you see a younger, taller man hectoring her. Russert did himself no favors with his question either. Combined, they gave Clinton the aura of being bulied by two men.
The whole aura of invincibility doesn't apply to Bush, but Karl Rove. Everyone in the Beltway treats him like a boy genius, my feeling is that he's closer to Cardinal Richelieu, but no matter. They stand amazed at his next manuever and political gambit.
But the Beltway pundits and the political press are missing the two stories which the election hangs on. One is the war. We cannot be at war in Iraq by September, 2003. If the war continues past then, Bush will have to explain why there is a US army of occupation taking casualities every day, months after the war was supposed to be over. The trickle of dead and stream of wounded will turn into a stream of dead and flood of wounded as soon as the Shia conclude we will not run a participatory government. Once that happens, and unless the US government gets smart fast, it will, the US public will face two brutal conclusions:
One, we're losing the war in Iraq.
Two, we are far more committed than anyone said and this is not a policy we can support.
The other story is the economy. The recession has lasted for three years. Since the crash, people have been scrambling for work. A casual glance at my friends shows two people with full-time work out of maybe 25 people I know. The economy's numbers may be recovering, but the jobs aren't. Many are being shipped overseas.
I attended a trade show last week that lacked exhibits and customers. This was a tech show, but the slump is across industries and even affects the trade show industry itself.
The media pundits are rarely deep thinkers. Most are as trendy as the worst MTV-addicted teenager. But instead of Hello Kitty cellphone face plates and belly shirts, they leap on the latest trend. If it's George Bush commander in chief, they'll repeat that theme until a new trend comes up.
The punidts are all misreading the Dean campaign as well. If either Dean, Kerry or Edwards gets the nomination, Bush is is very serious trouble. None of these men are McGovern Redux. They love to whip out that race, but forget Carter and Clinton. For any of those men to win, it means the base of the Democratic Party is energized and willing to vote against Bush in large numbers.
What people have to keep in mind is that elections are like battles. If you had asked Lincoln in 1861 who would lead the Union to victory, he would have never named a half mad professor (Sherman), a drunk who left the Army (Grant) and a bantam-weight horse soldier (Sheridan). People rise to the occasion during conflict. We simply don't know who will not only stand up to Bush, but bring the battle to him.
I get the feeling that if things don't change for the country, it will not matter who runs against Bush nor how much money the GOP raises. The common denigration of the current Democratic field is par for the course. No one looks like a president at first.
But if one of these men gets momentum, and real support, Bush will be in real trouble. His record is weak and stands only because no one has examined it in detail. As they do that, his reelection is no sure thing with the numbers he has now. The odds are good that they will not get better.
I refuse to read books by political reporters because they talk much and know little. I regard their cheerleading sessions in the same way. The only thing I know is that if they think Bush will have an easy time next year, given their track record, Bush will be lucky if he's running next year.
Remember, in the next election, the average Iraqi has a big vote. If they cause his Iraq policy to fail, he may join Truman and Johnson on the ash heep of one term Presidents who couldn't run for a second term.
Steve GilliardPosted June 22, 2003 11:32 AM | Comments (102)