The war bloc

The war bloc

: Glenn Reynolds frets that Bush has a problem with his “war bloc.”

Glenn marks the shift of a supporter such as Andrew Sullivan to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

I’ll ascribe it to other causes. Call them fears.

First, there was the fear of Howard Dean. He was George Bush’s greatest ally. When Dean was the front-runner — hell, the shoe-in — it frightened a lot of us, particularly those of us who believe that the war on terrorism is job 1, those of us in the “war bloc.” When deciding on Dean v. Bush, many of us found ourselves considering surprising options (i.e., voting for Bush). But once Dean started fading, the Bush’s magnetic field faded fast.

Second, there was fear of the religious right. The real Bush is Ashcroftian and though those impulses were tamped down as Bush set about fighting a few wars and doing his job, as the election came nearer, they are re-emerging. Odd that he should feel the need to lean right again since he doesn’t have to fight for the nomination — and now that he has a real liberal running against him — he could have staked the center; but that’s not the real him. So we have the marriage amendment. We are reminded of the stem-cell policy. We see his bioethics panel noodling. We see his FCC threatening to clamp down on content. We see the NRA play Congress like a marionette show. Now when it came time to step into the voting booth, all those fears might well have scared the “war bloc” left about Bush more than about Howard Dean. But with Dean gone, those fears of the religious right rise again like a sauerkraut belch.

Third, his own supporters are frightened by his spending and big-government ways. They won’t drop him, but their grousing doesn’t help is karma.

Yes, I supported Bush on the war(s). I was in that “war bloc.” But most of these fears do haunt me about him. And with Kerry instead of Dean, we do at least have the chance of a more credible wartime leader. Emphasis on “chance.” Kerry still has not learned the electoral lesson of the defeat of Dean — that people do care about this war — and stepped forward to show he can lead the troops and protect the people.

Andrew Sullivan says it well:

He looks like a potential president. But it was deeply worrying in one respect. The war on terror was barely mentioned. This on a day of appalling carnage in Iraq. I fear this man simply doesn’t get it. No one should support him for the highest office in the land until he proves he understands our enemy; and demonstrates that he will get up every day in the Oval Office to see how he can take the fight to the Islamists. I don’t see that fire right now.

Now it’s time for Kerry to see that Bush is his opponent and to prove that he can be a better wartime president than Bush has been.

Sullivan also sums up the state of the race: “So far, with Kerry’s limitations and Bush’s pandering to the far right, it’s neck and neck.”