Thursday, July 03, 2003

Another perspective on "policy vs. politics" is offered by The Poor Man: He doesn't think Bush is going to be all that strong next year.

I really think Bush is going to be very weak in the next election, and that questions of competence will be his weakness. Looking at the NY Times today, the top stories are the highest unemployment rate in almost a decade, and ten American soldiers wounded in Iraq on the day after Bush said 'There are some who feel like... that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on.' These do not speak to me of wise leadership.

I'm obviously partisan, but I don't take a lot of pleasure in reading stories like this. I live here. But the reason I didn't and don't like Bush was that I was afraid he would lead the country poorly. I think we're being led poorly. I'm not suggesting that I can bend spoons with my mind and solve decades-old murders by astral projection, I'm just saying that my constancy on this is the result of me trying, to the best of my ability, to judge what direction the country is going in, and whether I like this direction. Lots of other people try the same thing, and their results vary. But despite the bad news, there is some reassurance in reading polls like this and noting that other people are, at their own pace, holding Bush accountable for what is happening. It is a good thing about American public opinion is that it is so mutable. It reacts to events by changing ideology, rather than only filtering events to protect ideology. Events, I think, favor the Democrats.
I hate to harp on the same theme over and over, but that's part of politics. There's two different political conflicts going on in America right now, one about the "political" (that is, centered around narrow partisan politics) and one about "policy" (relating to what said partisans actually do with the power they have). Politically, Bush is in great shape: he has the Wurlitzer backing him, he'll be flush with cash, and he has Rove backing him to the hilt as he attempts to build a Republican dynasty strong enough to outlive him. Policy-wise, however, Bush is in serious trouble; there's vanishingly little that Bush has done that has been unequivocably successful, whether in foreign or domestic policy.

Were he not advised and controlled by some of the most gifted political handlers and fixers the United States has ever seen, Bush would be doomed, period. As it is, it'll likely end up a war between what Bush has done, and what he can convince people he's done. I doubt that anybody expected 2004 to become a battle between truth and artifice back when Bush became president, but there you go.

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