RJ posted a state-by-state breakdown on where the presidential election stands as of just before the RNC, (Zogby says Bush by 46-44 this morning), and even before the RNC, Bush was leading in the electoral college.
I’d say the RNC was quite successful, and Bush again showed that he is centered upon one thing – the War on Terror. This clarity of vision against terror is Bush’s greatest strength. Bush’s speech last night was rote and largely lifeless until he got to the 9/11-War on Terror part and then he came alive and really connected. He is a much better speaker than he is given credit for as long as he doesn’t have to think on his feet.
His emotion and conviction were clear and moving as he once again brought us back to that fateful day and his subsequent decisions and actions. His mea culpa about his own imperfection was effective and humanizing:
- In the last four years, you and I have come to know each other. Even when we don’t agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand. You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too. People sometimes have to correct my English — I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger (news – web sites) started doing it. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called “walking.” Now and then I come across as a little too blunt — and for that we can all thank the white-haired lady sitting right up there.
And his concern for our forces and their loved ones felt real and unforced as well:
- One thing I have learned about the presidency is that whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them — and whatever strengths you have, you’re going to need them. These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget. I have tried to comfort Americans who lost the most on Sept. 11th — people who showed me a picture or told me a story, so I would know how much was taken from them. I have learned first-hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I’ve held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.
And I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers — to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.
On the economic front, August job numbers are up, albeit modestly, but the trend is what counts, and as long as the economy doesn’t get noticeably worse, the country will side with the person who is most fixated on defending it.
Kerry has not shown he has a “fixation” equal to Bush’s, the essence of which is “taking the fight to the enemy,” or, more graphically, “kill the fuckers before they kill us.” It seems Kerry has a narrower vision of defending the country, one that doesn’t amount to “do whatever it takes.” He is much more reasonable and measured, and in this case, that is not good.
With his Vietnam record successfully, if dubiously, clouded by the Swifties, the focus returns to Kerry’s political record and that record is a hodgepodge without much rhyme or reason, and certainly without any kind of identifiable theme. The Republicans – with the bad cop-good cop combination of Zell Miller’s rabid attack-dog mauling and John McCain’s deferential “his record in Vietnam is unassailable but his actions upon returning to the U.S. are fair game” approach – have been very effective in pulling the Vietnam podium out from under Kerry.
As long as Bush can keep Iraq identified with the greater War on Terror, he will be given a reluctant pass by many for the very messy aftermath of the invasion itself. And that is a legitimate question: is Iraq part of the greater War on Terror? Obviously those who oppose Bush say no, point to the “neo-con agenda,” the lack of WMD, the disconnect between Iraq and al Qaeda, and these are all legitimate points of contention.
But in his speech, Bush also did a good job of reminding us that Saddam was warned by the Security Council unanimously, told to comply with a decade’s worth of defied demands from the UN, and given a last chance under penalty of military action. He did not comply – a coalition of 40 nations took military action, action that in no way can be characterized as “unilateral.” And Kerry voted for this action himself.
As I have argued before, the “real” reality is that after the overthrow of the Taliban, in order to reinforce our seriousness of purpose, to convince all who would dismiss our resolve, revert to business-as-usual, and fail to understand that violent Islamist exceptionalism is an unacceptable worldview, we had to take further aggressive action in the greater Middle East and the situation in Iraq was amenable to such action.
We had to go in there and throw our weight around, blow shit up, as it were, and overthrow something, which we have now done. I do not believe the presence of WMD in Iraq was intentionally fabricated as a casus belli, but neither do I doubt that the intelligence seeming to indicate their presence was greedily seized upon as a rationale for what had to be done regardless.
You simply can’t announce to the world, or to your own people for that matter, that you are going to invade a nation and overthrow its government because you have to prove your viciousness. But that is the reality.
Problems have ensued and the aftermath of the blowing-shit-up phase has not been handled particularly well; this is indisputable, but the bottom line is Saddam is out, the world knows we are no longer fucking around, there will be a roughly democratic government in Iraq one way or the other, and the behavior and attitudes of other nations in the region have been altered in myriad salutary ways, seen and unseen. Surely our relationships with Libya and Pakistan have changed dramatically for the good, and it has been made clear throughout the region that the spewing of anti-Western hatred from the mosques and madrassas is no longer acceptable.
A reasonable case can be made that it would have made more sense to blow shit up and kick the fuckers to the curb in Iran, Syria, North Korea, even Saudia Arabia, but everyone who lives on this actual planet knows that not one of these countries presented feasible targets for any number of political, logistical, military, geographic, diplomatic reasons. And Iraq really is better off without Saddam. You do what you can, where and when you can, and it is my hope that the invasion of Iraq removes the need for direct military action against these other nations.
The region had to be transformed, and the process has been very tangibly begun – this is not nothing, and effort and steadfastness in the face of adversity and opposition count.
This is why I think Bush will win in November, barring any number of things that could happen in this very volatile world. I am less certain of Bush winning reelection than I was a year ago, but more certain than I was six months ago. I am displeased with the majority of Bush’s social and domestic agenda, but I too am fixated on the War on Terror as the most important issue of our time and just don’t see Kerry as – not so much “up” to the task, but failing to comprehend its urgency.