November 3, 2004


Simple but Effective: Why you keep losing to this idiot. (William Saletan, Nov. 3, 2004, Slate)

Think about the simplicity of everything Bush says and does. He gives the same speech every time. His sentences are short and clear. "Government must do a few things and do them well," he says. True to his word, he has spent his political capital on a few big ideas: tax cuts, terrorism, Iraq. Even his electoral strategy tonight was powerfully simple: Win Florida, win Ohio, and nothing else matters. All those lesser states—Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire—don't matter if Bush reels in the big ones.

This is what so many people like about Bush's approach to terrorism. They forgive his marginal and not-so-marginal screw-ups, because they can see that fundamentally, he "gets it." They forgive his mismanagement of Iraq, because they see that his heart and will are in the right place. And while they may be unhappy about their economic circumstances, they don't hold that against him. What you and I see as unreflectiveness, they see as transparency. They trust him.

Now look at your candidate, John Kerry. What quality has he most lacked? Not courage—he proved that in Vietnam. Not will—he proved that in Iowa. Not brains—he proved that in the debates. What Kerry lacked was simplicity. Bush had one message; Kerry had dozens. Bush had one issue; Kerry had scores. Bush ended his sentences when you expected him to say more; Kerry went on and on, adding one prepositional phrase after another, until nobody could remember what he was talking about. Now Bush has two big states that mean everything, and Kerry has a bunch of little ones that add up to nothing.

If you're a Democrat, here's my advice. Do what the Republicans did in 1998. Get simple. Find a compelling salesman and get him ready to run for president in 2008. Put aside your quibbles about preparation, stature, expertise, nuance, and all that other hyper-sophisticated garbage that caused you to nominate Kerry. You already have legions of people with preparation, stature, expertise, and nuance ready to staff the executive branch of the federal government. You don't need one of them to be president. You just need somebody to win the White House and appoint them to his administration. And that will require all the simplicity, salesmanship, and easygoing humanity they don't have.

The good news is, that person is already available. His name is John Edwards.

It's obviously early yet but it's unlikely that anyone will write anything less insightful about 2008 than that. Mr. Edwards couldn't hold his own Senate seat so he ran for president, where he lost to the same John Kerry that Mr. Saletan is criticizing. He turned out to be so insubstantial that they kept him out of the spotlight and made no secret of their disappointment in his performance. It would be understandable if Mr. Saletan's point is that Senator Edwards is such an idiot that the styupid America people will like him, but that completely misapprehends George W. Bush, which you'd think the Left would have figured out by now is the real reason they keep losing to him--they don't understand him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 3, 2004 12:06 PM

"Bush had one message; Kerry had dozens."

The person that tries to accomplish everything will end up accomplishing nothing.

Posted by: Rick T. at November 3, 2004 12:16 PM

Is it just me, or does this analysis essentially amount to (read the following in a Dr. Evil voice) "George W. Bush always defeats me because he has ... mojo"? And if they were looking for mojo from John Kerry, they were sadly mistaken.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at November 3, 2004 12:26 PM

Bush has been using the exact same campaign style since running against Ann Richards a decade ago, and only now are the Democrats figuring out over 50 percent of the public doesn't want a politician who makes a laundry list of contradictory promises?

Posted by: John at November 3, 2004 12:32 PM

To paraphrase Jule Styne:

''Anyone can be clever. The really clever thing is to be simple."

Posted by: Jeff at November 3, 2004 12:43 PM

"Why you keep losing to this idiot."

A subhead that serves as its own answer.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at November 3, 2004 1:34 PM

Did Bush ever use 'compassionate conservatism' in a speech this year? If he did, I missed it.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 3, 2004 1:49 PM


The Ownership Society is compassionate conservatism. Wartime leaders don't dwell on their own compassion.

Posted by: oj at November 3, 2004 2:16 PM

Wartime leaders don't dwell on their own compassion.

Only sociopaths dwell on their own compassion.

Posted by: Ken at November 3, 2004 2:50 PM

For one thing, Democrats can't govern on a platform of simplicity. Their very essence is to build government into a machine to regulate all aspects of social and economic life, requiring cadres of technocrats to man the control points of the myriads of programs and regulatory agencies that this machine will spawn.

The second thing is that they are treating Bush as merely the amiable front man, or "face" for the Republican Industrial/Military complex. Remember "Face" from the A-Team? He sweet-talked the public, while Hannbal was the real brains. Bush is not just the face, but the heart, the eyes (the "Vision Thing")and the backbone of the administration. I don't see Edwards playing all those roles.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 3, 2004 3:09 PM

Edwards is a lightweight. That hotshot speech he made in the middle of the night was terrible. Anybody who has tried jury cases could tell you how bad it was.

Edwards clearly telegraphed that he knew his client's case was in the toilet. Once you do that, whatever chance you had for pulling one out is gone. Could this kind of performance be why Edwards spent most of the campaign, as one wag put it, in the witness protection program.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 3, 2004 3:53 PM

Robert Duquette hits it square-on. The simplest message they can communicate to voters is essentially Duquette's first paragraph, stated plainly and forthrightly. They also know that this agenda will be rejected faster than month-old milk. It's quite a bind.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at November 3, 2004 4:02 PM

Just like Ronald Reagan, the left will continue to call Bush an idiot. They will never learn.

Posted by: pchuck at November 3, 2004 5:13 PM

It's perfectly risible that some people, particularly the usual suspects in the MSM, are saying that John Edwards is a leading contender for the Dem nomination in 2008. The truth is, he's finished. He turned out to be a cipher on the campaign trail, he couldn't deliver North Carolina, and his remarks this morning and his concession speech this afternoon were peculiarly classless. I repeat, he's finished in national politics.

Posted by: Joe at November 3, 2004 7:42 PM

I heard somewhere that Edwards (did he resign his Senate seat) would probably go back to private law practice (where he is admittedly very effective -- richest ambulance chaser in the Carolinas).

Posted by: Ken at November 3, 2004 7:59 PM

Why would anyone believe a cheesy ambulance chaser like Edwards would be qualified to be President?

Posted by: Bart at November 3, 2004 10:30 PM

Hey Jim.

Micah Wright put his reaction up yet?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at November 4, 2004 12:40 AM