Begging to differ

Even though Rocket Man did not get to the latest Bush poll results until late last night, our readers have lost no time in expressing their disagreement with his pessimism about the 2004 election. Reader David Henry writes: “So Hind, With Bush still leading all of the Democratic candidates by decent numbers, you still think he will lose? Even though he has not hit the campaign trail to aggressively counter their lies and attacks? Even though the economic numbers show continuing improvement? Don’t you think some of this downside in the numbers, which I don’t trust from Newsweek, may have something to do with all of the oxygen the recall election in California is sucking up? Are you that cynical that one poll is the end of the world?”
A reader who checks in as “The Yell” writes at greater length with an analysis of the historical parallels. Like us, “The Yell” appears to be a fan of Ronald Reagan, heading his response “There you go again.” “The Yell” writes: “Are we going to have to yell at Hindrocket every time Bush slips in the polls for the next 14 months? If this poll were taken in September 2004 Bush would be in trouble. It’s early days, and this ain’t your father’s Bush. He doesn’t sit still and wait for events to turn around. He makes things happen.
“I don’t know what will happen between now and the election, but one thing that WON’T happen is stasis. We’re at war, and the tempo of enemy action will be a huge factor in the election. Hindrocket, take heart. This will be a wartime election. Look at the pattern of wartime elections in the US: 1864, 1916, 1944, 1968, 1972 (I include 1916 because of the intensity of WWI and the depth of debate on US involvement). In each case the election was a referendum on the war, and a referendum on the incumbent’s war policy. In each case victory was awarded to the candidate with a deliberate, decisive, divisive plan of ACTION regarding the war. Lincoln won on a policy of non-negotiation, Wilson on absolute neutrality, FDR on unconditional surrender, Nixon in ’68 by advocating total victory, in ’72 by calling for negotiated ‘peace with honor.’ Only FDR won by what could be considered a landslide, and 1944 was his fourth victory. None of the other races could be considered to have united the country, and the unity in 1944 had more to do with Pearl Harbor than FDR himself.
“The only time the incumbent lost, 1968, was due to weakness in three pillars of wartime government: weakness in not committing to the war as the defining policy of the administration, in not successfully prosecuting the war, and in not maintaining unity within the administration on the war — Gifford was able to challenge LBJ over the war, and it was Johnson who resigned his position. The successful candidate did not always advocate war — but he always provided the voters with a clear choice and a reasoned argument. The entire nation did not always rally to him, but a majority did, and majorities win elections.
“Looking to 2004, Bush meets the qualifications for a victorious wartime candidate. He has stated a clear, well defined position for victory. We will fight terrorists wherever they are found; if the state where they are lurking wants to crush them but lacks resources, the US will help; if that state declines to crush terrorists within its borders, the US will intervene; if allies are not willing to assist the US will do it alone. The fact that this policy has a real-life track record also helps. Voters know what Bush wants and what he will do about it.
“By contrast, none of the Democrats have any clear position. They want the victories in Iraq and Afghanistan without the wars to achieve them, or they support the wars but not Bush’s methods. They will fight to defend the US but on a case-by-case basis after consulting with our allies. They aren’t sure what they want or how to get it. Gen. Clark had a fine chance to change that, but he’s already squandered it in the first two days.
“Bush, more than anyone since Lincoln, has identified his Administration with the war. He has successfully prosecuted it. The internal loyalty of the administration is better than LBJ’s and certainly better than Lincoln’s. He will not fail as LBJ failed. You seem to like creating hurdles for Bush to leap…WMDs are politically irrelevant. We won the war without finding them and failure to find them won’t turn that triumph into a defeat. Finding them won’t convince Democrats to abandon the campaign. The hatred of the establishment is a given for Republicans; it didn’t stop W the first time. The liberal media are weaker than it was in 1992, and can’t play as falsely as it did in that race without being called on it. Furthermore, the public is far less tolerant of libelling a President in war than in peace. For all those reasons I am confident that 2004 is Bush’s to lose.”

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