Here’s how Bush could have had a landslide
: Or to put it another way: Here’s how Bush could have had my vote — and if he’d managed to get the vote of a lifelong Democrat, a Bill Clinton Democrat at that, then he could have gotten millions more unexpected votes and he would have run away with this election. But he’s not. Why? Well, he coulda, shoulda….
1. He should have called Iraq a one-year war (at least), not a one-week war.
He should have known that this would not be as simple as overpowering Saddam’s limp military. He should have known that only when we had installed democracy in Iraq could we declare victory. He should have put in sufficient resources to do that while better securing the lives of Iraqis and our soldiers. He should have managed our expectations and should not have declared victory.
Of course, others would say that he should not have invaded Iraq. But in this speculation, I’m not trying to make him into Howard Dean. I supported getting rid of Saddam and bringing democracy to Iraq and the Middle East (in what was once known as the Tom Friedman doctrine). But like many others who supported this move, I’m disappointed, dismayed, distraught, distressed — pick your dis — at the administration’s inability to win the peace.
James Wolcott also imagines what the stage would look like now if we had squashed the so-called insurgency. Wolcott does so to make a different point than I’m making here but it’s a wrenching what-if:
Suppose there had been no Iraqi insurgency, no al-Sadr popping out from behind the curtain or Saddam loyalists prepped for guerrilla war, no car bombings or beheadings or roadside explosives.
Or an insurgency so feeble and scattered it was swiftly squashed and swept up.
Just imagine how different things would have been over the last year, how different they would be now.
Bush would have been completely vindicated for invading Iraq, despite the non-discovery of WMDs….
France, Germany, the other nations that opposed the war–they would have been rhetorically shunted forever into the dustbin of Old Europe….
Over a 1000 Americans would still be alive, as would countless thousands of Iraqis. Thousands more would have escaped grievous wounds….
The US economy wouldn’t be bleeding billions of dollars now and into the indefinite future. The economy would have lifted itself aerodynamically out of recession by now and restored much of the job loss of the previous years.
Oil would be in the $30-35 range as Iraqi oil flowed through the pipelines and infrastructure was repaired.
The United States would have been able to be poised to launch strikes against Syria or Iran from secure bases of action in Iraq, as the stage was set for act two of the war against the Axis of Evil.
President Bush would probably boast an approval rating in the 60s or 70s, and coasting to a landslide reelection against a Democratic candidate served up for sacrifice until Hillary could run in ’08….
2. He should have served the center.
Hey, if Bush can become an interventionist and nation-builder, it’s not so damned far-fetched that he could have become a centrist, or at least played one on TV.
After his unvictory in the last election, he should have gone to the center in an effort to really win the next time. And after 9/11, he should have owned the center to make himself the president of all America in this time of need. He even could have used that to protect himself on the right: Gee, he could have grinned, I’m too busy saving America and civilization and democracy to waste time trying to stop gay marriage or stem-cell research or even abortion. He could have appointed someone respected instead of John Ashcroft. And a little less talk about talking with God would have helped, too.
That’s it. It’s that simple: If Bush had done those two things, there would have been millions of voters (like me) who never would have thought of voting for him before 9/11 but would have considered it afterwards. He would have had a landslide and a real mandate. But that’s not going to happen.