Tuesday, May 25, 2004
An interesting view that makes me feel better about Kerry's campaign so far.
Guardian Unlimited | US elections 2004 | Bush can't win this election now. Kerry can only lose it: "Whoever said that misfortunes come in threes must have had George Bush in mind these past few days. First the US president falls off his mountain bike and grazes his face. Then Michael Moore's anti-Bush movie gets the top prize at the Cannes film festival. And now, to cap a lousy weekend, it looks as if Bush is going to lose the election in November.
posted by lazarus |
Political professionals - Labour as well as Democrat - still shake their heads. Why has he not exploited Bush's setbacks in Iraq more ruthlessly, they ask? Why has he not focused his message more clearly? Again there are solid answers. Because Kerry is playing a softly-softly long game. Because Bush's record in Iraq is doing Kerry's job for him. Because it isn't smart to attack Bush too strongly now for fear of letting him play the patriotic card.
Much of the more militant anti-Bush opinion is frustrated by Kerry too. They want him to do a Michael Moore, to tear into Bush not just on Iraq but on the Middle East, on civil liberties, on inequality, on the environment and on the spiralling government deficit which the new book Colossus by Niall Ferguson (no Michael Moore he) identifies as the achilles heel of America's global role.
But Kerry is proving smarter than all these people think. Back in September 2001, Kerry was one of the Senate Democrats who supported his majority leader Tom Daschle in the hard but uninspiring decision to keep the party's head down on the war on terror. America's mood was such, they argued, that to attack Bush over Afghanistan, civil liberties or Iraq was to walk into the trap that Karl Rove, the president's strategist, was setting for the 2004 campaign. Rove's strategy was and is to present Bush as a strong and successful wartime leader. Daschle's wily response was to lie low. If the war on terror went brilliantly, Bush would win anyway. If it went badly, Daschle and Kerry were determined not to allow Bush to blame it on the Democrats.
It was a huge gamble. Yet if it looked craven in 2001, it begins to look a lot smarter today. As Bush began his fightback strategy on Iraq last night in Pennsylvania, opening a crucial phase of what the distinguished writer Elizabeth Drew this week rightly called America's "most consequential election in decades", it is Kerry, not Bush, who is now the man to beat."