How Bush Could Get (Re-)Elected

This is the moment. This is the point in time when Bush either wins or loses the next presidential election. If he waits much longer than this to put his strategy in motion, it won’t matter; he won’t have time to move enough voters into his column. And big strategies take time to implement. If Karl Rove thinks an October, 2004, invasion of Syria, say, is what it will take to get swing voters to vote for Bush, then the preparation for that needs to start now.

Given that fact, I keep coming back to Sunday’s speech, and what it says about Bush’s overall strategy. Say what you will about Rove, you can’t accuse him of thinking small. Everyone’s interpreting the shift in rationale (“Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror”) as a defensive move, a ploy to shore up eroding support in the face of the missing Iraqi WMDs. But maybe it’s actually an offensive move, the first step in expanding the “war on terror” beyond Iraq.

Gwynne Dyer talked about this back in early August, in a piece I linked to then, but which has since disappeared (with a new, unrelated item appearing in its place, thanks to the extremely Web-challenged information architects behind the Jordan Times’ site). Anyway, the piece is still available, thanks to those clueful folks at al-Jazeerah: Welcome to Iraq-Nam. Here’s a key passage:

It [the guerilla war in Iraq] will escalate, and by this time next year the Bush reelection bid will be in serious trouble — so serious only another brief and victorious war against alleged ‘terrorists’ may be able to save it. Washington is already blaming ‘foreign terrorists’ for the non-Baathist resistance in Iraq, and Syria and Iran are going to find themselves filling the same rhetorical role that the Ho Chi Minh trail did in the earlier war. Since Syria is a much softer target than Iran, it is quite likely to be invaded and occupied by American forces before November, 2004 . If there is another major terrorist attack on American soil, that likelihood becomes a near certainty.

That last part is interesting. As things stand today, I don’t think Bush could credibly invade Syria; it would be too transparent a ploy to secure his (re-)election. If you look at the latest update of Pollkatz’s Bush-approval graph, you can see that that steep decline in his post-flight-suit numbers has continued unabated. That’s the thing about people; they just won’t stay fooled. Not enough of them, anyway. And each time you fool them, they get un-fooled faster.

There’s an interesting new poll from ABC News: Was It Worth It? Poll: More Americans Think Iraq War Raises Risk of Anti-U.S. Terror. If you look at those numbers, you get a picture of people getting wise to the reality of Bush’s maneuvers. Republicans by-and-large still think he’s doing great in Iraq, Democrats by-and-large think he’s failing, but it’s those Independents who tell the story. They’re the ones who decide presidential elections, and they’re shifting steadily into the anti-Bush column.

Besides the transparency of the ploy, there’s also that pesky issue of funding. Between the big tax cuts for the rich (and the modest ones for us middle-classers with kids), and his penchant for playing with life-sized army men, Bush has pretty much maxed out his credit cards.

So taken together, this means he’d have a really hard time successfully mounting an election-securing invasion of Syria. At least, he would if he tried to do it today.

But that’s the beauty of it. He doesn’t have to do it today. Today, in fact, would be much too early. He has a whole year to prepare.

So; what form might those preparations take? Well, as Dyer mentioned, another terrorist attack on US soil would do nicely. Would Bush intentionally allow such a thing to happen, to help his own political fortunes? Hopefully not. But I’d certainly believe him capable of engineering a reasonable facsimile without the high body count; a near-miss, maybe, dramatic enough to be really scary in its implications.

Or not; again, the transparency of his motivations in creating such a Reichstag fire would make it risky. If too many of his fingerprints were on it, it could end up being counter-productive.

There are other actors in this drama, though, who might be willing to help out. Ariel Sharon, for example. Sharon has a very powerful interest in helping Bush get elected, and he might well be able to create enough mischief (invading Lebanon? a bombing campaign in Syria?) to give Bush a pretext for an invasion somewhere.

And then there’s Osama bin Laden. I realize this is going to make right-wingers start talking about tin-foil hats, but I think the leader of al Qaeda might very well decide that the best thing for continuing his plans to foment an all-encompassing war between Islam and the West would be to return George Bush to office. So far, Bush has been a perfect accomplice. Throughout the Islamic world, anti-American sentiment is up, recruiting is up, and the hated secular regime in Iraq has been overthrown, paving the way for a rise of Islamic fundamentalism there.

Which brings me back to Sunday’s speech. Maybe the shift in rationale goes beyond trying to float a new justification for the war. Maybe the president’s latest taunting (“We’ve taken the fight to the enemy! Our cities are safe because the people being blown to little bloody bits are on their turf, not ours!”) is intended, on some level, to encourage another attack on the US. Maybe Bush is intentionally baiting bin Laden and his followers, as with his earlier “Bring ’em on!” statement. Maybe the whole thing is part of a grand design for electoral victory.

I don’t know. Bush is a mean-spirited man, with a hard, twisted little heart, and Karl Rove is famously willing to do anything in pursuit of victory. But still. I guess if you strapped me down in a Guantanamo interrogation facility and injected me with truth serum I’d have to admit that I doubt Bush is pursuing such a strategy consciously. But then again, Bush doesn’t have to be conscious of the strategy in order for it to work. Maybe Bush is just “being himself,” talking tough without any clear idea of the response he might provoke, consulting his gut rather than his head, doing what feels right to his perpetually chip-on-the-shoulder inner child. Bush is absurdly unsubtle, completely lacking in insight into his own motivations. He’s oblivious to the fact that he’s engaged in a dance of ever-escalating violence with a partner who is equally focused on achieving an apocalyptic outcome, each side convinced that “his” God will see to it that, in the end, his own side prevails. Emotionally, Bush wants this fight, and is incapable of backing away from it.

But Rove is a different story. As much as anyone in the Bush administration, Rove is a pragmatist. He knows what the strategy is, with all its emotional baggage stripped away. It would be really interesting to get Karl Rove in that interrogation chamber for a few hours and see what emerged of his unfiltered thinking. Scary, but interesting.

11 Responses to “How Bush Could Get (Re-)Elected”

  1. ymatt Says:

    I dunno.

    I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that these guys aren’t power-hungry maniacs, doing whatever necessary to benefit their private interests, both in money and power. I think they really believe they’re doing the right thing.

    I think this is their line of reasoning:

    – The war? The middle east is one big thorn in the side of America, controlling oil supply and hating us all the while. Now that 9-11 has public support thrown behind anything anti-terrorist, it’s time to start solving the middle eastern problem.

    – Did Iraq train terrorists, do they have WMD? Who cares — they sure aren’t supporting us and they’re right in the middle of a lot of people that hate America.

    – Big reconstruction contracts thrown to our friends? Hey, they have to go to somebody and those guys helped pay for us, the right-thinking defenders of America, to get where we are. They might as well get some payback.

    – Lies to the public? The public is too shortsighted to see what we’re doing will be good for America in the long-run so you’ll have to excuse us for trying to keep them focused on defeating the bad guys at the expense of exact truth.

    And on and on. The problem is that I think their vision of what’s good for America and what our future looks like is way… way wrong. And they aren’t willing to let the public decide if they agree or not because they don’t think the public can be trusted. They think freedom is best defended from the top down, not supported from the bottom up and it’s going to be the end of us if we let it continue.

  2. Remaindered links weblog Says:
    How Bush Could Get (Re-)Elected…

  3. Remaindered links weblog Says:
    How Bush Could Get (Re-)Elected…

  4. mark Says:

    Excuse me for asking the obvious question:

    How can we “Re-Elect” someone who was not elected in the first place?

    George W. Bin Laden

    George W. Been Lying

    Osama Bush

    All of the Above?

    Barbara Bush must be ashamed… very ashamed!

  5. ymatt Says:

    Eh, I mean as much as I can’t stand Bush, harping on the ‘not actually elected’ thing seems petty at this point. There were some questionable dealings, but pretty much Bush got to office in a legal manner. The problem that election highlighted was how unbelievably lame our election _process_ is — it’s frustrating that all we seem to have gotten out of it is “I guess we should make voting digital at some point”. We need to do away with the electoral college and use a mathematically more valid method of voting like the approval system or somesuch.

  6. MMR Says:

    ymatt wrote: We need to do away with the electoral college and use a mathematically more valid method of voting like the approval system or somesuch.

    Me: Gahhhh, be careful what you say. There may be flaws in the electoral system but it’s what is written into the constitution. I may agree, in theory, that the electoral system isn’t the best but my hair stands on end (almost literally) when people start wanting to tinker with the constitution in any way, shape or form – and that includes ammendments.

    Take the Equal Rights Ammendment. I agree with it in almost its entirety but don’t know if I would have voted for it. First, I believe everything in it is already guaranteed by the constitution and second, ammending the constitution is the most serious thing, period, that we as a society can do.

  7. ymatt Says:

    Re: amending the constitution

    I agree completely. It is indeed a serious thing, but I think the basic method for how we choose our representatives is something worth looking very closely at. It’s mathematically provable that the ole “one person, one vote” system is flawed and frequently does not choose the candidate that the people want to see in office. But there isn’t even any discussion of the possibility of changing the system. I think it’s completely taken for granted that the current system is the most “common sensical”.

  8. TIm Says:

    If this country wants to keep it’s morals and defend our beliefs and liberties we had better keep Bush in office. He has done an outstanding job considering how full his plate has been from the start. He needs four more to truly implement his plans not to mention get us some sensible judges appointed.

    This country needed desperately to get some backbone and morals back and Bush is doing just that. I really like his statement that America needs no permission slip! We should always be prepared and do whatever we deem necessary to secure our America’s freedom and liberties. I’m tired of us selling out to the aclu or pressure from the ignorant united nations.

    Our forefathers were even smart enough almost 300 years ago to say make no alliances. This was well before you ever had a neighbor next door much less the worry of rogue nations with nuclear weapons and terrorist. Nor the fact that we let people in this country that want to kill us all. In other words I don’t want to be passive! I don’t want to ask permission from people who really want to see us fail and are stabbing us in the back! I want America to always be the Superpower! I want America to do whatever it feels necessary no matter what! I want America to stop being passive and predictable!

    There is a cowboy in the Whitehouse. Our Heroes have always been cowboys. Remember Will Rogers, The Lone Ranger,The Cartwrights and John Wayne? They did what they said they would. They had high morals and stood for good, honesty and integrety. They always hunted down the bad guy and got him. I’m glad we have a cowboy in the Whitehouse!

  9. Steve Says:

    Tim your fucked up….

  10. Nick Says:

    BUSH WILL BE re-elected! That’s for granted! He’s doing an outrageous job and will resume his project after the elections!

  11. James Says:

    I need to get some of the stuff you folks are smoking. To think that ol “W” is doing anything good is completely crazy. I personally can’t wait till November when the public gets a chance to vote this lunatic out of office. This is only a chance, because this election will also be fixed for good ol G.W. I am from Texas myself and, will say just as the Dixie Chics, that I am ashammed our president is from my homestate. I just want to ask one question, what has George W. Bush done good for this country so far? The ONLY thing he has done for this great country is help coordinate and cover-up almost everything associated with the 9/11 events. Oh yea, he has also helped the herion drug trade from Afganhastan to the U.S. And how can I forget that he also is building that pipleling across afgan. , which he promised would never happen. It’s very odd that everyone in his administration is somehow associated with the oil industry. Yea and Condi Rice, yea the same one Chevron named one of its largest oil tanker after, really needs to use a little bit of the millions she raking in and get the gap in teeth fixed. It is just really annoying.

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