The Long Road To 2004

Fred Barnes has a good piece in The Weekly Standard on the obstacles Bush will face in order to get reelected in 2004. Certianly Bush’s re-election is no fait accompli, but a lot of it depends on his Democratic competitor. A Howard Dean will pull the Democratic vote, but will be unable to make significant inroads into crucial swing vote. The same applies to Gephardt, who is looking to be the likely number 2 in the Democratic race now that Clark and Kerry are both watching their campaigns sink in the polls and fall apart.

Bush can thank the timing of the economic recovery. After all the talk about a “jobless recovery” nearly 200,000 jobs have been created in recent months. The 7.2% level of economic growth this summer is directly connected to the Bush tax cuts which supercharged economic growth. That growth will likely continue into November of 2004 unless there is a major setback like another terrorist attack or a major corporate scandal on the order of Enron or Global Crossing. This almost insulates Bush on the economy. However, his unwillness to check Congress’ profligate spending habits introduce a major political liability for the President. Federal spending is at an unacceptable level, and conservatives are faulting the Bush Administration. Democrats are also ironically painting themselves as budget hawks (even though such a position is patently ridiculous as all the Democrats have said that they would spend even more than Bush on nearly every problem), which may help them shake their liberal image.

The biggest problem is Iraq. If Bush pulls significant amount of troops out of the country in June, he’s toast. There are a lot of voters who are voting for Bush specifically for his handling on the war on terror. If Bush surrenders to the will of the Ba’athists and allows Iraq to burn, he will lose that vote and he will lose the election. Bush would be better off increasing the number of troops in Iraq, and boldly attacking the insurgents before they attack us. We have got to go on the offensive in Iraq, and if granting sovereignty allows us to do that, then that’s what should be done.

The American people can stand far more casualties than the opposition believes. What the American people cannot stand is failure. The Administration’s Iraq policy isn’t failing as a whole quite yet, but the security situation is simply unacceptable. The Bush Administration clearly “misunderestimated” the resistance from the Ba’athists and foreign fighters. We went on the offensive months too late, and we’re stretching our forces too thin in Iraq and elsewhere. This means that the Bush Administration has to make the hard choice of more troops in an offensive posture capturing and killing militants wherever they hide. Saddam Hussein’s head should be mounted on a pike in the middle of Baghdad as soon as possible. The US should start broadcasting messages in Arabic with images of dead militants warning anyone else that the price of attacking the Iraqi people is certain death.

These steps can help the Bush Administration deal with the Iraq issue. Unless we pull a Mogadishu in Iraq, it’s clear that eventually we’ll get Hussein and if we continue to go on the offensive the security situation can only get better. The militants in Iraq aren’t holding back, they’re hitting us with everything they have. They’re getting better at it, which is troubling, but they’re not some invincible fighting force, and they don’t have the support of the Iraqi people.

Bush may not be a not be a shoo-in, and Iraq will be a major problem for him. However, it doesn’t look at all like Bush is going to push back from Iraq. Given that the Democrats have all swung to the hard left following Dean in the primaries, the Democrats are going to enter the general election in a weakened position. The convention may be exceptionally acrimonous, and there’s a chance of a major schism in the Democratic Party between the Clinton loyalists and the Dean supporters. The Democrats have no plan other than attacking Bush, which is insufficient to win a national election. They have candidates who are uninspiring and petty.

While Bush can’t rest on his laurels, it’s his election to lose. If he continues to do what he has his chances are good.

One thought on “The Long Road To 2004

  1. Project stellar economic performance and job growth at your own peril. Similar predictions have been made at several junctures during the Bush administration, and always end up being followed by a flatlined quarter and another 200,000 job losses. Even if your prediction comes true and mass economic growth happens despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, the deficit will be a leper’s bell around Bush’s neck. It’s unlikely he’ll lose on that issue alone if the economy’s growing and if the Democratic nominee is fumbling and stumbling on his way to the finish line, but will give a credible opponent significant ammunition to justify exporting Bush from the White House to at least a few voters, which may be all he needs if the race is close.

    He’s indeed taking a huge gamble by changing his position on ending the occupation by a given date on the calendar that conveniences his re-election bid….because it could just as easily inconvenience his election bid if the ploy proves strategically disastrous, as it’s very likely to do. There are plenty of dimwitted “swing voters” who don’t understand economics or the consequences of Bush’s reckless policies, and their votes will either be determined by single issues such as guns or abortion, or the status of the situation in Iraq on election day. If things are a mess in Iraq next November and the Democrat candidate is marginally electable, Bush is in trouble, regardless of the status of the economy.

    Your premise of a fracture in the Democratic Party
    at next year’s convention is plausible, particularly if Howard Dean manages to become the nominee by winning a weak plurality of votes in an overcrowded primary field. The Democratic power structure seems to be slowing warming up to Dean, perhaps sensing his nomination is becoming inevitable with John Kerry and Wesley Clark’s campaigns at the swirl before the drain. Nonetheless, there will clearly be a large faction of the party that will view Dean as a colossal liability to the party’s already bruised national image, and they’re likely right.

    By the way, are you the same Jay Reding that insisted for months that we “don’t need any more troops in Iraq….the present forces are sufficient”, but is now saying Bush should increase the number of troops in Iraq? Sigh….you never know which Jay Reding is gonna show up anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.