Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, January 06, 2004  

President Bush enjoyed a respite at the end of 2003, keyed by the great "spider hole" recovery of Saddam Hussein. But this isn't the same President we saw a year ago, and the media isn't giving him anywhere near the press he has heretofore enjoyed. There's a lot of talk of how a Democrat can't beat Bush, but I'm wondering if someone should make the opposite argument--can Bush beat any of the Democrats?

(This is mostly a rhetorical post--I think it's going to be close. As a shoe-on-the-other-foot exercise, let's play it out, though.)

The big rap against the Democrats is that they're weak on foreign affairs. Bushies are also making the argument that the economy is back. Other than that, Dems have no major black marks on their permanent records. Let's turn the tables.

The Economy
While Democrats, who haven't been in control, mainly have to depend on the state of the economy--Bush is wholly responsible. Even if unemployment starts to improve, no one suggests that all the Bush job losses will be replaced by November. Main Street will be more than a little amenable to the reality of this sentence, sure to be played sixty-two million times in the coming year: "George Bush is the first President since Hoover to cost Americans more jobs than he created."

Who knows where Wall Street will be in a year, but today we heard yet more of consumer debt ($2 trillion and climbing--the highest ever) and a weakening dollar. These little Easter eggs aren't like the evanescent Dow--they have real and unavoidable consequences. And let's not forget the deficits.

Politically, there will be an accounting for the huge spending in the face of tax cuts--and this will play out not only on the campaign trail, but in Congress, where worried legislators will have to staunch the bleeding.

Foreign Affairs
How many times are we going to have to hear that Dean's weak on international issues before it dawns on the dim memory of someone that in 2000, the bumbler from Crawford didn't know Afghanistan from Armenia, much less how to conduct delicate diplomacy and war in the face of organized terror.

He didn't know how, and his record now shows it. While many will continue to make that "Dean's-weak" claim, it's going to be increasingly unsupportable in the face of the catastrophe wrought by the pre-emption doctrine, two wars, the failed "roadmap to peace" in Israel, and lthe paucity of success on the terrorism front. Every time Bush tries to make the argument of his superiority, he'll open himself up to reasoned criticism.

Dean's got this closed records issue, which is a sizeable negative. Fair enough. Now, let's look at Bush. He will be dogged by criticisms he lied about the Iraqi threat. There could be a major legal tangle with the outing of Valerie Plame. The cronyism regarding Cheney's energy policy will become an issue (neutralizing criticisms of Dean's own records issue). Then there are the not-quite scandals, which astute Dems will exploit: tax cuts for the wealthy (donors); Halliburton cronyism; "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests;" cutting military pay and benefits even while asking soldiers to spend longer and longer times on the battlefield (there's a new report on that one, incidentally). Those are just off the top of my head.

The Rove smear machine will kick in on the Democratic candidate and find some targets--as usual, even where there are none. But Bush's position is worse. His targets are not only real, but they're high profile actions that happened in the electorate's own memory. Add to that the old scandals--AWOL in the Guard, drunk driving, SEC investigations--and Bush may be facing a very different campaign this year. It's reasonable to wonder if he can win.

Oh, but I forgot: Dean's angry.

posted by Jeff | 8:38 AM |
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