Monday, March 15, 2004
Three follow-ups to my last post:
First, I meant what I said in the last paragraph. I think Bush has to do more than anything is make the case rather than change his policies (on Iraq, that is). There is absolutely a case still to be made; it's not being made, though, and the reasons why it's not being made point up the problems with this Administration. But I also think this - the Iraq war - is the issue that is hurting Bush. Not jobs. Not John Ashcroft. If Bush can convince America he's the right steward for the war, he will win the election even if more Americans disapprove than approve of his stewardship of the economy. People across the political spectrum think the Administration was either mendacious in making its case for war or deluded itself about fundamental questions. That may not be fair, but it's the perception, and if Bush doesn't rebut it, he's got a big problem.
Second, to clarify my point that the Spanish reaction is comprehensible, consider an Israeli analogy. Terrorists from Gaza just murdered 11 Israelis over the weekend in Ashdod. Gaza is behind a security fence of the type Sharon is building in the West Bank to separate Israelis and Palestinians. Until recently, Sharon was a firm advocate of never negotiating with or running away from terrorists; lately, he's exchanged a huge number of prisoners with a terrorist group and has been pushing a plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. So: the murders in Ashdod, are they a reason to vote for Sharon (if there were a pending election), or for parties to his right, or for parties to his left? That's a political judgement call, and it doesn't mean much to say that voting one way or another would mean the terrorists have won. Let me make another Israeli analogy: in 1995, Yigal Amir murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in an effort to stop the Oslo process. Not too long after, there was an election in which the Labor Party explicitly called for people not to vote for Likud and Netanyahu lest Rabin be betrayed and his murderer be vindicated. If voting Socialist this past weekend was immoral because the terrorists would thereby win, doesn't that mean that voting for Netanyahu was immoral in 1996, since this would mean Amir had won?
Third, I probably wasn't clear enough in my last post that I think the Socialists will be an absolute disaster. The rhetoric coming out of the new Spanish leader is terrifying. He's almost gleeful in his taunting of Bush and Blair and in his declaration of greater affinity for France and Germany than for the U.S. and Britain. This would be juvenile if it weren't so dangerous. There are two ways to read the tea leaves, neither of them encouraging. Either the core European nations and the parties aligned with them are now quite eager to foment a rift in the Atlantic Alliance - damn the consequences - or the parties of the left, as of the right, have coalesced into global networks such that we can no longer clearly speak of "Germany" for instance but only of the CDU/CSU or the Social Democrats, and alliances and the like will rise and fall repeatedly with a simple change in electoral majority. Or some of each, which I think is most correct. Regardless, this is, as I say, a very dangerous development.