Here's my weird conclusion before I present the argument for it: The Iraq War debacle is benefitting Bush. Why? Because Kerry looks weak on foreign policy and national security. Democrats generally look weak on foreign policy and the military to most American voters and Kerry is no exception. The mess in Iraq is accurately recognized by the American people as being a serious problem. Here is where the Iraq mess works to George W. Bush's benefit: The American people know the United States is in a serious military and political mess in Iraq and therefore want a strong aggressive masculine figure in the White House. A clear majority see Bush as possessing more of the masculine and aggressive qualities than Kerry. You don't win a US Presidential election based on perceived higher intelligence.
An Associated Press/Ipsos poll asked registered voters to assess the character of each nominee. Nearly 75 percent said Bush was "strong"; only 54 percent said that of Kerry. Three-quarters called Bush "decisive"; a measly 37 percent applied that term to Kerry. Bush was seen as more likeable. The only character face-off in which Kerry led Bush was intelligence. Eighty-four percent considered Kerry smart; 63 percent reported they believe Bush is "intelligent."
Kerry is hobbled by all sorts of things. First of all, he has a voting record in the Senate that is not pro-military spending or even pro-military action in conflicts such as the first Gulf War that the American people supported. He has his record of early 1970s anti-Vietnam War and anti-US soldier (supposed war criminals) rhetoric weighing against him. Plus, and this is a subtle point that most commentators miss, Kerry is wealthy because he married wealthy. That is just not a masculine real man way to riches in America. Whereas Bush made his money in baseball (never mind that he did it through politics and a bond issue for a sports stadium). Baseball is for real men.
Fifty per cent had "a lot" of confidence Bush could protect the United States from terrorism, up from 43 per cent last month. Just 26 per cent expressed such confidence in Kerry, down from 32 per cent in August.
Never mind that Bush is not pursuing many different border control and visa policies that would reduce the ability of terrorists to get to the United States in the first place. Never mind that the second Iraq war has increased Muslim anger toward the United States and probably made Al Qaeda recruitment easier even while it drew US forces away from the Afghan-Pakistan border where there are plenty of Al Qaeda members. Most people are not thinking thoughts that complex.
In CNN/USA Today/Gallup Polls conducted this month, Bush moved ahead in Ohio and several other key swing states, though voters favored Kerry by major margins on the economy, health care and Iraq. But on the issue of terrorism, Bush was ahead by stunning margins, including by 87 percent to 9 percent among registered Ohio voters who cited that issue as key.
Kerry might be able to do a better job of explaining Bush's Iraq mistakes. But he is not going to offer a convincing and honest case of what he'd do instead (not that Bush is being honest about his own intentions in Iraq at this point - Bush might be getting ready for a US withdrawal from Iraq next year). Also, Kerry is not going to come out and advocate more effective policies against terrorism on the home front because ethnic immigration lobbies would object and privacy rights advocates would oppose more effective use of information systems against terrorists.
If Bush wins reelection it will be because the American people are more focused on foreign poilicy than on domestic policy. They will vote for Bush in spite of his big foreign policy and domestic security mistakes. Personally, I think Bush has a 65:35 chance of winning reelection. He will manage to win reelection in spite of a failure of his immigration policies to pull any more Hispanics to the Republican ticket and in spite of the degree to which he has angered his base on immigration.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 September 21 09:39 PM Politics American Domestic|