2004 September 21 Tuesday
Is The Iraq War Debacle Helping Bush?

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.

More people trust Bush on terrorism than trust Kerry.

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.

To the extent that terrorism is a worry Bush benefits.

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

Invisible Scientist said at September 22, 2004 6:06 AM:

One interesting phenomenon that is closely correlated with the outcome of the elections,
is the stock market. Historically, when the market is going up, the mood of the
crowd is such that they will tolerate even a bad incumbent president. For instance,
even when the Clinton impeachment made a lot of people think that he is guaranteed
to lose the elections, the stock market was going up, and I told Randall Parker at that time
that the incumbent president Clinton has a good chance of winning, which he did. It did not
make any difference how corrupt Clinton was, and how aware the American people had
become of Clinto's nature, because the stock market was and esoteric
indicator of the positive mood of the nation at that time.

And this time, it appears that the stock market is refusing to go down
despite the negativity from many analysts. If the market still stays in the black
until the November elections, then Bush will almost certainly win. But if the
market declines severely until the elections, Bush has a good chance of losing.
This stock market indicator has a good track record.

david said at September 22, 2004 11:12 AM:


immigration isn't hurting bush because kerry ain't exactly better on the topic.
same with iraq.

Randall Parker said at September 22, 2004 11:20 AM:

David, Immigration is reducing Bush fund-raising and will lower the turn-out of his base. People can just not vote or vote for a third party. That's what I'm going to do. I know others who voted for Bush in 2000 who are doing likewise.

Derek Copold said at September 22, 2004 12:13 PM:

I, for one, will vote for the Constitution Party or write in Tom Tancredo's name.

Overall, a Bush defeat will be good for the GOP and, more importantly, good for the country.

As for the war, it's definitely not a plus. The only thing saving Bush is that Kerry is tied in so many knots over his past record he can't put up much of a credible solution. Really, at this point there is no good solution to Iraq. It's only a matter of how bad will our eventual loss be. Kerry has the sense of it, and it shows. Bush, if the Novak is genuine, does too, but he's shameless enough to lie on as if nothing bad has happened and victory is "right around the corner."

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