The Dark Campaign II: Double negative

The Dark Campaign II: Double negative

: In the comments below, Laura Hagan delivers a fascinating analysis of my electoral paralysis. It’s about the DOs vs the DON’Ts:

Jeff, I sympathize….

Your fears about Bush are (for the most part) about what he would DO that would be wrong. He would appoint right-wing judges; he would work to reverse Roe; he will, and has, worked to pass a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Stupid, divisive, wrongheaded moves all to pander to his Evangelical base.

By contrast, you are afraid of what Kerry would NOT do. You fear he would NOT act against our enemies without the imprimatur of the French. That he would dither….

For the most part, what you fear from Bush cannot be implemented by the President alone. But what you fear from Kerry CAN be.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Everything you fear from a Bush II administration, I do too. But he won’t be able to do it — for the most part — without significant help from Congress. Right-wing judges? They would have to be confirmed. The Dems aren’t even in the majority and they’re managing to block the judges they want to block. The gay marriage amendment Bush wanted? DOA in Congress. I don’t expect that to change under Bush II. What Bush wants that I don’t like isn’t going to be completely under his control.

By contrast, there is no power on Earth that can force a Kerry administration to bypass the UN when it’s necessary. There is no provision for Congress to sidestep the President and send troops. What you fear from a Kerry administration CAN be, and WILL be, implemented by the President alone. It will be solely up to John Kerry….

It’s ever-more fascinating to me how everything in this campaign is analyzed in the negative. We vote to keep the other guy out of office. We vote to stop something from happening. We don’t vote because we’re enthusiastic. We don’t vote because we want to accomplish something but just prevent something.

: UPDATE: Fred Wilson adds:

If this is the way the American electorate is viewing this election then the negative campaigning has taken over and people are losing their good judgement. We need to vote for what a President will do and not against what he might do. We need to realize that Congress will provide its required system of checks and balances over whomever gets elected. We need to pick a direction we want to go in and vote for it, not against it.

  • chuck

    What do you mean, we, kemosabe?

  • tonto

    Speak for yourself, Jeff. And Chuck …

  • Reid

    Jeff – You need to read this column from the WaPo from another apparently conflicted liberal.

  • Mike G

    Here’s something I sent some friends (I’ll trim it a bit), partly in jest, but there’s some truth to it I think as well:
    A Bush reelection would, at first, be a blow to the hopes of the Islamic threat (and their bought-off appeasers in Europe) that the old days when America could be hit with impunity and the foreign aid checks would keep flowing are back… But every reelected president is a lame duck from the moment his second term begins, and the problem for Bush then comes when much of his high profile war cabinet leaves and the Republicans on the Hill start being restless and the natural isolationism of much of the Republican party starts to assert itself. The lockstep coordination between White House and Republican Congress that gave Bush everything he wanted will be a thing of the past. It’s a foregone conclusion, for instance, that no matter what happens in Iran or Syria, for instance, Bush could never mount another invasion of another Arab country, he hasn’t got the credibility at home for it….
    A Kerry administration, of course, presents an entirely different scenario. There will be rejoicing in the Arab world at the repudiation of Bush. That is not, as some Republicans say it is, sufficient reason alone not to vote for Kerry. (The candidate of my enemy’s enemies…) What will matter is Kerry’s reactions in his early days in office. Certainly if there is a major offensive by Baathist holdouts Kerry will be pressed to react strongly and prove that America hasn’t folded up like a tent. He will want to demonstrate that all his talk of better plans and global alliances wasn’t just talk. Of course, it is; there is no better plan, just better execution….
    The real test though will come if he is pushed on several fronts at once– Iran and Syria more blatant about incursions into Iraq, North Korea balking at the shape of the table, a few diplomatic humiliations in Europe. Kerry will want to demonstrate American resolve at that point– and given Islamism’s tendency to overplay its hand, it is quite probable that he will be given an obvious casus belli for invasion of Syria or airstrikes within Iran, and see himself with very little choice (if he doesn’t want to be a widely-mocked, ineffectual one-termer) but to continue Bush’s project of democratic transformation of the Arab world, removing at least one more government.
    The choice then is clear. Pacifists, those who hoped for Howard Dean, those who valued peace above all with Saddam in power over war with a liberated Iraq, must support a reelected Bush as the weaker American president and therefore the one most likely to be forced into going four more years without launching another conflict; and they must support Republican Congressional candidates as well, as being the closest in spirit to the isolationism that we see from the likes of Michael Moore and Gore Vidal. While those of us who support the “neocon” transformational project in the Arab world as the only way to eventually cure its societal dysfunctions, those of us who want to see the Cold War ended at last by removing the last surviving cockroaches holding onto power in its wake, have to give serious thought to whether Kerry, like so many Democrats before him, might not be the best vehicle for their hopes.

  • Reid

    One more thing – What Jeff and Laura fear from Bush is pretty well reversible, should the worst-case scenario come to pass. For Kerry, on the other hand…

  • I say something similar to Laura:
    Domestic issues are much more controlled by Congress than foreign policy. FP is largely the creation of the CinC and his cabinet, to the extent that they influence him, but it always has his stamp on it. Congress can affect it somewhat but not declare its own or significantly shift what the CinC wants to do.
    If you like Bush’s FP, stick with Bush and vote for the legislators you want to constrain his domestic policy.
    As for the above comment: a fascinating theory, but too much subject to speculation. You have to take these guys at face-value, rather than indulge in wishful thinking about what they might do based on unforseen circumstances.
    With Bush, we know what we’re getting. With Kerry, we know even less what we’re getting than with most candidates because he HAS changed his position weekly, and he doesn’t have much of a track record in Congress. All we know is he’s been a dove and an internationalist in the Carter mode. The NYTimes story suggests that hasn’t changed. It’s silly to expect him to be a hawk once he gets into office.
    I know Bush changed as a result of 9-11, but you can see how his Wilsonianism grows out of his values. And he’s a fast learner (ex: how he grew on the Palestinian issue, whereas Clinton kept doing the same shit over and over in hopes of producing a different result). Can you imagine Kerry appointing Daniel Pipes to anything?
    Laura is right. The FMA is dead. Judges still have to run an obstacle course. Bush is no more fiscally loose than Kerry, and he’s more honest. As for domestic policy, both will be big government spenders, but their attitudes are completely different. Kerry: “You are victims and help is on the way!” Bush: “Ownership society.” That would sell me right there, war or no war. I don’t like Kerry’s class warfare. I do appreciate Bush’s awareness of who snmall-business owners are and why restrictions on out-sourcing bite us in the ass. Kerry spent his whole life in Congress. Bush was an entrepreneur for years before entering government. Those distinctions matter to me.
    Think about who spoke at Kerry’s convention and who spoke at Bush’s convention. I really like Guiliani, Schwarzenegger, Silver, McCain, even Zell. I did not like seeing Michael Moore sitting with Jimmy Carter. Kerry is stumping with Sharpton and Jesse.
    I like Bush’s cabinet: Powell, Rice, Rummy. Think about the names Kerry waved around for his cabinet: Baker, Berger.
    90% of Vietnamese-Americans are voting for Bush. 90% of Russian-American Jews are voting for Bush. 80% of Israelis want Bush to win. 75% of our military are voting for Bush. (Both Kerry and Bush spoke to the same Natl Guard convention; Bush got many standing ovations, Kerry got polite applause and some people walked out.) Bush is picking up black and Arab votes.
    I would rather trust the judgment of a hard-working immigrant from a totalitarian regime, or someone whose job involves risking their life every day, or someone who lives with suicide bombings every day, than the kiddies, academic posers, red diaper babies, aging hippies, Hollywood stars, race card players, activist journalists, and various other Kool-aid drinkers on the ABB bandwagon. If they elect Kerry they will own him. I see their conspiracy-theory emails and comments every day, and one of the main reasons I am voting Bush is to shut those people out.

  • PS and let’s not forget Kerry’s classic line from his acceptance speech about how if attacked, we will respond with alacrity or somesuch. If a blooper that large slips into such an important speech, I think it betrays a state of mind.
    Bush was willing to go on the offensive, and that’s where we need to stay. Remember: no more attacks on home soil since 9-11. That’s a pretty good track record.

  • My vote goes to accomplish something —
    Free elections in Afghanistan and the prospect of them in Iraq, and security for the homeland to make sure Beslan, etc doesn’t happen here.
    The man who I think can best do that gets my little X.

  • Jeff, check out this page from Kerry’s site. (Via Glenn)
    Doom and gloom. Doom and gloom.

  • Tim Gannon

    “We don’t vote because we want to accomplish something but just prevent something. ”
    Because in the end most of us wish that government would only help us, not the other guy. Some of us wish that government would not do much of anything.

  • John

    Doom and gloom, Yehudit? Try reality.

  • Patricia

    Look at it this way: de Toqueville thought that the idea of mandatory elections every four years was genius because it took into account the Great Truth of human nature, that we are fallible and each president will inevitably do great damage if you leave him in office long enough. In essence we should always vote for the fellow who will do the least damage (a negative), not the one who will lead us into Valhalla.
    So my vote for Bush will be the first practical and fully American vote for this formerly dreamy-eyed progressive liberal.

  • MWB

    The “dark campaign” fits the times in two ways:
    First, it’s a post-9/11 world. Political “enthusiasm” marks times of peace and prosperity (real or perceived). These days “determination” is a better word. On 9/11 the lights went out, and our collective eyes are still adjusting. Grand visions, while not absent from the campaign, come second to survival in a world of global terrorism.
    Second, it’s a close race. Neither side has the luxury of campaigning with one hand tied behind its back. Combine this with the inherit uncertainty of our forward course in this new era, and of course the negative will appear dominant.

  • Laura Hagen, commenting to Jeff Jarvis, elucidates a new, penetrating insight into the relative dangers of Kerry and Bush that need far more discussion:

  • Privacy Watch


  • Franky

    “Ask those dead soldiers if they are safer than if we have not invaded Iraq.”
    Do you have a phone number?

  • Reid

    “Ask those dead soldiers if they are safer than if we have not invaded Iraq.”
    How about asking their buddies, who are voting 4:1 for Bush?

  • Franky

    “How about asking their buddies, who are voting 4:1 for Bush?”
    More evidence of the genius of our military class.

  • The invasion of Iraq has been a hugely mismanaged affair that has committed our military to a distraction which prevents us from mobilizing our best forces to combat new threats. So far, the US has spent over 120 Billion dollars on the war and lost over 1000 US soldiers.
    This is the big, total lie the Left has been pushing.
    First, at some 180 deaths, the invasion was a huge success.
    Second, in pushing for the creation of a democracy in Iraq, the loss of 1200 is low.
    There were estimates of tens of thousands before the invasion. The Dems have never, ever, given a number and said “this number or less” is a good job.
    I’ll give a number. 2500. About the number killed in the Towers. Using military force to create a democracy in ANY dictatorship, with 2500 or fewer American casualties, is a success.
    Including Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia; North Korea; and Sudan. If Pres. Bush, or even Pres. Kerry, decides to enforce regime change in any of these countries, I’d support it.
    We need a peaceful world — a world without dictators. I have hopes that China will hold elections in the next 40 years, without any war. Most other large countries are already somewhat, or very, democratic.
    However, the COST is, indeed, and important issue — and militarily enforced regime changes are too expensive to be taken lightly. Usually better to wait. It’s really, really, too bad the Dems can’t say “booting Saddam was, in fact, good — but it’s too expensive”. I disagree for up to some 300 billion, but at some point it IS too expensive. It’s an important, under asked question.

  • Reid

    And, of your complete lack thereof, Franky.

  • To Laura, and to Jeff in his leaning toward agreeing:
    Yes, we know that Bush will continue on the way he has established. Maybe you feel you can afford it. I have grandchildren, and I cannot. It isn’t just the actual, existent, policies and practices, it’s the astonishing practice of blatant lies about what he’s done. With this little record of truth, what more might we expect is to be yet uncovered in this administration’s game plan when it no longer has a coming election to face?
    From Meyerson in this a.m.’s Washington Post, noting that the attack of the moment had dropped flip-flopping and taken up the dread ‘liberal’ label:
    “Kerry, by contrast, has a record that might be described as consistently Clintonian. Unlike Ted Kennedy, he supported both welfare reform and the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings balanced-budget act. He’s been a free-trader, but, like most mainstream Democrats, he’s moved to questioning the benefits of free trade in response to the decimation of American manufacturing. (Unlike Bush, Kerry doesn’t believe that presidential inflexibility is more important than the continued existence of a middle class in Ohio.) In fact, even as the allegations of flip-flopism were a time-honored Bush strategy, which Poppy had directed against Clinton and Junior had directed against Al Gore, the depiction of Kerry as an ultra-liberal bears no resemblance to reality either. But, then, the Bush campaign and presidency have never given reality much due.”
    It scares me that there is no adherence to a basic standard of truth here. Whatever advertisement will sell is best, is a tenet of corporate profit motif. There is no underlying belief in the public’s best interests, it is all directed toward maximization of profits for the corporate (in this instance, administration) profit.