The war and the election

Jeffrey Bell is an astute observer of the political scene and he has a thought-provoking article on the prospective presidential election in the Weekly Standard out this morning: “It’s the war, stupid.” The article focuses on the unpredictable effect of the battle of Iraq on the election. Here are the article’s concluding paragraphs:
“The intensified resistance to our occupation of Iraq is indeed a crisis point in the war debate, if only because these are the first politically significant military setbacks suffered by the Bush administration since 9/11. For the first time, Bush administration voices–and not just the usual suspects in the State Department and CIA–can be heard implying that rapidly phasing down our Iraq effort–in the Vietnam-era phrase of George Aiken, declaring victory and going home–might be the political path of least resistance. Another sign of uncertainty is the seeming willingness of the White House to pursue amicable negotiations with Iran at a time when that country has apparently tolerated the establishment of a new base for al Qaeda within its eastern border.
“But if the president’s view of this as a vast, unfinished world war is still the view of most voters, attempts to wish away unpleasant realities will come to grief. Little more than a year ago, key Democrats were betting that voters were focused not on the war, but on issues like prescription drugs. Everything that has happened in the Democratic party since tells us that they will not repeat that mistake. It would be ironic if in the months ahead, it is Republicans who find themselves hoping that 2004 will be a peacetime election. Under just about all foreseeable circumstances, American voters are unlikely to agree.”

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