Skip to comments.ANDREW SULLIVAN: Bush wins because people know what he stands for
Posted on 11/10/2002 12:40:21 AM PST by MadIvan
Maybe now theyll take him seriously. For the last 2½ years American Democrats and many Europeans have dismissed George W Bush.
When he wasnt a cowboy, he was a fratboy. When he wasnt a moron, he was unable to construct a simple sentence. When he wasnt promoted beyond his abilities, he was a tool of corporate interests. When he wasnt an unelected president, he was a cipher for the powerful people around him. On and on it went, and Bush didnt do much to counter it. Why should he?
The president knew it helped him that his opponents in the media and Congress underestimated him.
Every now and again the truth slipped out, as when Tony Blair commented earlier this year that the portrait of Bush in the British press was a parody of the smart, calm, shrewd operator who had won the prime ministers confidence.
So perhaps now, after a stunning electoral victory and an equally decisive United Nations resolution to disarm or depose Saddam the critics will finally remove their blinkers and take another look.
Two years ago Bush should have been buried by an incumbent Democrat vice-president after eight years of unparalleled prosperity. Most political scientists predicted a Gore victory in double digits. It ended up 50-50. This time he was running against history again. No Republican president had ever gained seats to win both House and Senate in his first mid-term. Moreover the economy was in a trough, giving the opposition party even more momentum.
Yet Bush bettered his 2000 performance and the national vote tallies show a 53-47% split favouring his Republican party. Even in California, with a truly dreadful Republican candidate, the sitting Democratic governor won by a narrow 5%. In the American heartland Minnesota, Missouri the Republicans clawed back Senate gains. No sitting Republican governor lost. Democratic governor candidates lost in liberal states such as Maryland, New York and Massachusetts.
The presidents hand was evident in many of these races. He had handpicked candidates in places as remote as South Dakota, Minnesota and Georgia. He threw a huge amount of his political capital at the task and campaigned hard in all the tight races. This was a big risk. If hed failed the Democrats and the media would have jumped all over his repudiation at the polls. But fortune favours the brave and the risk-taking Bush prevailed over the status quo Democrats.
Two policies made victory possible. The first, and most overlooked, is Bushs tax cut. This was his first item of business when he assumed office. He put all his energy into it and won its passage. Politically it was a masterstroke. It meant that if the Democrats wanted to propose an alternative economic plan they would have to argue for raising taxes.
The honest ones argued exactly for that. The nervous majority countered that campaigning to raise peoples taxes is not exactly a good idea, especially in a weak economy. They prevailed. So the Democrats went into the election criticising Bushs economic plans while proposing nothing of their own. They seemed negative, whiny, and irrelevant.
They also made Iain Duncan Smith look charismatic. Youve barely heard of Democratic leaders Tom Daschle and Richard Gephardt and wouldnt know what they stood for. The same goes for many Americans. Only Bushs old opponent Gore rose above the din, and reminded people of why theyd preferred Bush in the first place.
Then, of course, there was the war. Bush became a real president on September 20, 2001, when his war address to Congress rallied the nation. I sat in a room watching him, slack-jawed, as all the Democrats around me had tears in their eyes. That bond has stuck, and, in some respects, deepened.
Bushs patient but ruthless execution of the Afghan campaign, his homeland security proposals, his axis of evil speech and his persistence in dealing with the Iraqi threat built on this achievement. Americans are not without their worries about the war; they are not gung ho warriors. But they grasp that we live in a new and dangerous world and they trust this president to defend them.
The presidents decision to involve the UN in September was the mark of a careful man. It married unrelenting determination to win the war with pragmatic deftness. This is a president, remember, who picked both the feisty Donald Rumsfeld and the cautious Colin Powell for his inner circle. He knows the importance of a good mix. And it was exactly this mix of brute power and artful diplomacy that gave him the UN triumph on Friday. In the end hardline Arab Syria went along. Even Syria.
Again his opponents abroad had underestimated him. They thought he was a cowboy: reckless, unilateralist, impulsive. This is and always has been hooey. He is a multilateralist who knows that no coalition will work unless guided and led by American power and will.
He knows how grave the danger to the West still is. He has been marshalling every possible resource military, diplomatic, rhetorical toward confronting it. His reaction to the election win was typical in this respect: he lay low for a day (can you imagine Clinton doing that?) and then gave a press conference with the telling phrase: The election may be over but the terrorist threat is still real.
This victory also reveals Bushs mastery of domestic politics. You can see this most dramatically when you compare the Tories with the Republicans. Bush has united a once-fractious coalition. Bush would never have forced his party to split over an issue like gay adoption. His base in the dwindling religious right is still secure.
The Republican victory in Georgia in the Senate and governors race was a coup for Ralph Reed, the religious right strategist. At the same time Bush counts northeastern liberal Republicans among his closest allies installing Marc Racicot, a pro-gay moderate, as party chairman, and avoiding any difficult showdowns on the subject.
Ditto his subtle outreach on race both in backing popular policies among African-Americans, such as school vouchers, and appointing some of the most high-profile black officials in American history. One reason the Democrats lost was that their core support of black voters didnt show up. They didnt respond to the alarms that liberal Democrats have sounded about nefarious racist Republicans. Bush is one reason, perhaps the only reason, they dont buy it.
The presidents main temptation now is hubris. Republicans, now in the majority in both houses of Congress, are already talking about banning partial birth abortion, corporate tax breaks, and the like. Bush should restrain them. The Republican majority in the Senate is still only 51-47 and long-term demographic trends favour the Democrats. The war is paramount if Bush bungles Iraq his support will evaporate.
All this points to a cautious but determined two years. Hell be able to shift the judiciary decisively away from liberal activism and has now won enormous leverage in foreign policy. If he continues to conduct the war well, does not allow Hans Blix to turn inspections into another charade, and the economy revives with record low interest rates, then Bush will be extremely hard to beat in 2004.
But this vote wasnt about 2004. It was about today and the terrible decisions this young but gifted president has to make in the coming months. What Americans were telling the world last week is that they like him and support him. Whatever the pundits and cynics say, this isnt, in the end, Bushs war. Its the American peoples war. And they intend to win it.
Good article. Thanx for posting.
Eat your heart out!
Underlying everything in the past 14 months is this fact. The Demodogs refuse to acknowledge this, but We The People actually trust President Bush to lead. His integrity is the paramount quality, and after x42, is starkly visible.
For an "evenly split country," I'd say that's not too shabby.
It doesn't hurt if the advantage shows up in the right states, of course . . . how about in Louisiana, for instance?! We could use a Republican senator come the runoff . . .
Bingo. Saved me a longer post.
Recall the convention, with the journalists carping about the black performers entertaining the crowd? Bush is gradually eroding the "race card" . . .
"Privatization of Social Security" would among other things give people who have historically shorter life expectancy a little better break (It is also the only way to make an effective Social Security Trust Fund, not the sham in which the government presently writes IOUs to itself and calls that "saving").
Why the hell not ? It was a massacre and the Democrats are humiliated. Republicans can't take advantage of this moment to remind voters of the abject failure of socialist doctrine ?
If not now, when ? The time is long gone when acting the 'gentlemen' scores points with an otherwise cynical populace of Survivor fans.
Republicans have successfully co-opted the Democrats' strategies, but will never understand their tactics.
I've come to like President Bush very much. I trust both his character and the judgment of his Administration in most things -- not because he and they are always right, but because I sense an underlying sober honesty about them. They will recognize and correct their mistakes. That's a paramount virtue in dealing with the world around us.
But this business of treating the victories of particular Senatorial candidates as wins for Bush has some disturbing implications, and they ought to be explored.
Is the most important thing about a Senatorial candidate his party alignment? Does the GOP only nominate persons who are fit for public office, or at any rate more fit than their opponents?
Inasmuch as a Senator is supposed to represent his state's interests -- the original design was to have the state legislatures choose Senators directly, without recourse to a popular vote, a scheme I'd like to see restored -- just how appropriate is it for the President, a national official, to stump for any of them? Doesn't that suggest that one of the components of federalism has been short-circuited?
Yes, yes, I know about Democratic obstructionism in the Senate these past two years, and I agree that it's been tawdry and deplorable. I'm glad -- so far -- that the GOP has regained a Senate majority. But I profoundly hope that the "federalization" of the Senatorial campaign hasn't saddled anyone with a Senator of less-than-sterling character, or less-than-adequate understanding of (and fidelity to) Constitutional principles. One of the reasons George Washington condemned "factions" and political parties was exactly that sort of result: the promotion of "our people" over the interests and well-being of the Republic.
Judge them on their records and their performance when trusted with power, please. Don't judge them by their hairdos, their lapel buttons, or their high-profile endorsements. That way lies God knows what.
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit the Palace Of Reason: http://palaceofreason.com
The Republican Party has to get abortion-loving Dems. on the defensive in *all* races, and the partial birth abortion issue is just the one to do it. There is at least an 80/20 divide on this issue, and 80% of the country is with us.
Living in New York, I can't tell you how often I heard commercials that Forrester and other candidates were "extreme" on abortion. Excuse me, but it is the candidate whose position is supported by 20% of the electorate who is extreme!
The Republicans need to educate the public as to what the "extremist" Democrats support -- federal funding of abortion for any reason at any time in the pregnancy, taking minors over state lines without parental permission for abortions, covering up statutory rapes in order to perform abortions on minors.
Remember the hideous chain dragging ad that played in the Texas market of James Byrd's daughter practically accusing then Governor Bush of murder? Well, I have now heard the Republican equivalent. I don't know how many markets it played in but it accused the Democratic candidates of murdering black babies since 42% of abortions are performed on black women and the Democratic Party promotes this. (Not that I think President Bush had anything to do with this ad, but it just shows what an effective argument we can muster against abortion -- and how we can divide the constituency that Dems. take for granted -- if we are not too lily livered to do it.)
We now have a President who is not afraid to play hardball against his ruthless, murderous opponents.
In his favor, he is also willing to bide his time. When the time is right, President Bush will execute his plan to put the Democrats on the defensive re: the life issue -- as they should be -- so that the American public can see very clearly just who the "extremists" are.
Sullivan is usually right, but despite his protestations, he still continues to "misunderestimate" the (in John Huang 2's words) "el hombre de Texas."