The election, that is. Thus, Kos is mad as hell at John Kerry for screwing up the election, suggesting that he and his advisers “should be lined up and shot” for losing to “this joker” (President Bush, if you were wondering).
In reality, John Kerry, while hardly a great candidate, ran as well as any liberal Democrat was likely to. Indeed, one could predict Bush’s victory and his margin of victory (as I did) merely by extrapolating from his approval rating. Those seeking more complexity could predict the result by looking at the economic numbers and the polls reflecting the public’s attitude on security issues and the war in Iraq. There is no need to factor in Kerry’s quirks and flaws in order to explain the election, and thus no justification for doing so. The only facet of Kerry that may well have affected the outcome was his (correctly) perceived weakness on security issues. But to avoid that problem, the Democrats would have had to nominate a security hawk, not a liberal Democrat, and certainly not anyone that Kos would have found satisfactory.
What’s Kos’ evidence to the contrary? He notes that Bush has the lowest approval rating of any president coming off of re-election. But that’s why Bush’s victory was, if I’m not mistaken, the narrowest of any incumbent re-elected since the approval rating has been tracked. The key point is that Bush’s approval rating was, and is, higher than those of incumbent presidents who were defeated.
Kos also cites Kerry’s infamous line, “I voted for the $87 billion, then I voted against it,” which Karl Rove has described as “the gift that kept on giving.” But Kos’ favorite candidate, Howard Dean, was committing major gaffes regularly (remember the confederate flag) at a time when he was the front-runner in the preliminary event, and thus under less pressure than Kerry. The main reason why Kerry flip-flopped was that, from a purely political standpoint, there was no good place for him to be on issues like Iraq. He couldn’t appeal to his base and present a compelling reason for his election without being opposed to our action, but he couldn’t establish himself as serious about defense without supporting it. Howard Dean would either have flip-flopped on Iraq or gone down in flames for being too soft.
Kos is right about one thing, though — “a Kerry presidency would’ve been an unmitigated disaster, with a hostile congress, budget woes, the mess in Iraq, etc.” And he may also be right that the Democrats have “an opportunity for long-term gain.” But they are less likely to seize any such opportunity if they are unable to “get” this year’s election.
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