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Why Bush-bashing won't win

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  • Why Bush-bashing won't win

    from the Telegraph:

    Bush-beating is nothing but snobbery
    By Mark Steyn
    (Filed: 07/09/2004)

    In Sunday's Observer, Robert McCrum observed: "Today, by some margin, George W Bush is the most despised figure in America." Really? The paper sent McCrum to America to interview nine novelists about the election. That's the first mistake right there: shipping a guy 3,000 miles to take the pulse of the nation by interviewing a bunch of guys who already agree with him. One of the reasons why the Bush-despisers will be waking up stunned on the morning of November 3 is because they spend way too much time talking to each other and sustaining each other's delusions.

    "These guys are out of touch with reality," twitters Wallace Shawn, referring to Bush and Dick Cheney rather than himself and McCrum. "They could - and probably will - do anything. This is the scariest I've known it."

    If the graduates of the creative writing schools are beginning to sound drearily predictable, the humdrum gentlemen of the press are writing ever more creatively. Just over a month ago, John Kerry gave his "I'm reporting for duty" convention speech. I thought it was typical Kerry - "verbose, shapeless, platitudinous, complacent, ill-disciplined, arrogant, and humourless," as I wrote in the Telegraph back then. But what do I know? The American media hailed it as a triumph.

    A day or two later, the numbers came in and showed that Kerry's "triumph" had mysteriously not prompted the traditional post-convention bounce in the polls. Even Michael Dukakis got a bounce. But not Kerry. Indeed, according to Gallup, he had the first recorded instance of negative bounce. Fortunately, the Dems and their chums in the press were able to reassure themselves that this lack of bounce didn't mean anything.

    "Just before the convention, polls showed that many more Americans than usual had already made up their minds about whom to support, leaving a small number of undecided voters to woo," explained Bill Straub of the Scripps-Howard news service. As for the Republican convention, "Bush is similarly unlikely to see his poll numbers flourish."

    Ingenious! It was the instant conventional wisdom. There are no swing voters left to bounce. The post-convention bounce is no longer relevant. It's a thing of the past. It belongs to the age of buggy whips and whalebone corsets. Forget about it. We're living in the post-bounce era of American politics. Only a chump not up to speed on this new political reality would be dumb enough to suggest that the absence of bounce is because Kerry's Vietnam-retro acceptance speech was a flop.

    Last Thursday, Bush gave his speech. Unlike Kerry's "triumph", this was a dud. "Too long," yawned Bob Schiefer on CBS. He lost the crowd, alienated moderates, etc. Then the Time and Newsweek polls came in, and showed Bush with an 11-point lead over Kerry. How did that happen? Whatever became of the post-bounce era of American politics?

    Not to worry. The new conventional wisdom is that it was the sheer meanness of the Republicans that earned them the bounce, and so Kerry's hitting back saying he's not going to be criticised by a President and Vice-President who weren't in Vietnam. If you didn't serve in Vietnam, you can't criticise John Kerry. On the other hand, if you did serve in Vietnam and you criticise John Kerry, that just means you're a "Republican smear artist". Either way, don't criticise John Kerry, because, if you do, he'll spend his next 10 campaign rallies droning on about how he's not going to take criticism.

    The Kerry campaign is a bore that's degenerating into a laughing stock.

    "Bush-despising" is no doubt very comforting to McCrum's beleaguered literati but in the end it's little more than snobbery - fine for cocktail condescension but utterly inadequate for an election campaign. You can't beat something with nothing, and Kerry is about as spectacular a nothing as you could devise - a thin-skinned whiny vanity candidate who persists in deluding himself that Bush's advantage is all down to "smears" and "lies" and "mean" "attacks". It's not.

    Bush's something is very simple: his view of the war on terror resonates with a majority of the American people; when he talks about 9/11 and the aftermath, they recognise themselves in his words; they trust his strategy on this issue. For an inarticulate man, he communicates a lot more effectively than Senator Nuancy Boy.

    Wallace Shawn, by contrast, is a writer, a man who makes his living by words and yet devalues his own currency. Is the Bush-Cheney tyranny truly a "scary" time for him? Is he really "scared"? Of course not. He's having a convivial drink with a fawning Brit interviewer; what could be more agreeable?

    "Scary" is - to pluck at random - being held hostage in a school gym and the kid next to you is parched and asks for water and the terrorist stabs him in the belly in front of your eyes. "Scary" cannot encompass both that situation and Wallace Shawn's vague distaste for Bush without losing all meaning.

    "This Russian school business works for the Republicans," a Democrat griped to me over the weekend. Alas, it does - because it's a reminder for those who need it that the war on terror isn't some racket cooked up to boost Halliburton profits but a profound challenge to America and the world.

    Could what happened in Beslan happen in the US? Two months ago, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on a fellow called Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, a suspected terrorist who'd fought with his fellow jihadi in Chechnya and somehow wound up in Minnesota, where he'd applied for licences to transport hazardous materials and drive school buses.

    Americans who care about this stuff know where George W Bush stands. They're not sure where the Democrats do - sometimes it's full-scale Michael Moore denial, at other times it's going through the multilateral motions with Kofi and Co. No point on that continuum is of sufficient electoral appeal.

    Last week, apropos the Islamists' impressive mound of Israeli, Nepalese and Russian corpses, Kofi Annan's office issued the following statement: "The secretary-general strongly condemns all hostage-takings and killings of innocent civilians."

    Or, as Cole Porter wrote in Friendship: "If they ever put a bullet through your brain, I'll complain."

    That's the UN policy on Sudan. Americans don't want it to be the policy in the war on terror. That's why they'll stick with Bush.



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