October 25, 2002
LET THE MOUNTAIN COME TO MOHAMMED:Election 2002: Bush changes the debate (Nicholas M. Horrock, 10/21/02, UPI)
For several months, the war hawks in the Bush administration had been leaking different versions of battle plans against Iraq to the news media. Democratic Sen. Joe Biden held hearings on the issue in the Senate Foreign Relations committee that revealed that the notion of an unprovoked attack on Iraq, particularly without allies, would sharply split the very core of the Democrats. The administration had sent no witnesses to those hearings and whatever the president's real plan was, he was holding it close to his chest -- but the White House had learned a lot.
The president's political advisers had seen daylight. When Bush returned from vacation in September, the White House issued a new national security doctrine for the United States, dredging up an address he had made to the West Point graduating class in June. The United States, he said, would reserve the right to strike an enemy that it feared would attack America or its allies.
"Preemption" became the catchword of the news broadcasts and talk shows. Wouldn't it have been right if the United States had learned about the Sept. 11 attacks for it to preempt them Cheney would ask rhetorically? Maybe Pearl Harbor could have been prevented? Or Hitler stopped by a French Army invasion? [...]
Bush's tactic was certainly not new. He had used it successfully to back out of Kyoto, end the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and to push Star Wars missile defense. Take the hard position and make the debate come to you.
The GOP probably won't come out of this election as well as they hope to, but one very important thing may be changing: the press and Democrats may finally be realizing that George W. Bush is a man to be reckoned with, rather than ridiculed. If such an impression were to actually take hold with the electorate too, it would make the President a genuinely formidable figure. Ronald Reagan, despite all he achieved, never shook the air of clownishness that the Left stuck him with. (He got a nice bump in popularity after he was shot, but it was of the "Who'd wanna shoot the sweet old guy" sort, not the "My what a courageous leader we have" sort.) This has made it possible, even after a Reagan-led victory in the Cold War, to minimize his presidency and to dismiss him as lucky and likeable, but not responsible for any of the good things that happened in the 80s.
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2002 10:27 PM