This opinion piece by Joe Klein in Time magazine is pretty intense: Bush’s Iraq: A powerful fantasy.
It’s intense (for me, at least) because he sums up what’s been kicking around in my own head as the essential story of the US presidential campaign at this point: The US situation in Iraq is fucked, and getting moreso. Bush, in defiance of the evidence, is denying that, and Kerry, stymied by Bush’s dishonesty and the moral murk of his own past positioning on the war, is flailing. Then comes Klein’s thoroughly depressing conclusion:
And so there is only one significant question left in this presidential election year: Can John Kerry hold George Bush accountable for this mess? My guess is, probably not. The Republicans, with a strong assist from Kerry, have successfully painted the Democrat as a flip-flopping incompetent when it comes to national security. It will be hard for Kerry to change that impression. In fact, he has only one chance remaining, in the presidential debates.
And that won’t be easy: I’ve never seen George Bush lose a debate. He is a brilliant minimalist. Kerry by contrast is all oratorical flab — although he did begin to show some signs of life last week in a solid speech to the National Guard convention, in which he blasted Bush’s “fantasy of spin” about Iraq. It is a powerful fantasy, though. And it is easy to predict Bush’s response to any Kerry criticism about Iraq: “My opponent is too pessimistic,” the President will say. “See, what he doesn’t understand is that the President of the United States has to stand firm. We can’t show weakness. And we won’t on my watch.” Unless Kerry can come off with a succinct, and lethal, response to those vaporous but compelling platitudes, he will lose this election.
I really, really don’t want this to be true. I still have hope that enough of the electorate will see through Bush’s bullshit, that his cynical strategy of lying and evading responsibility for his messes will fail.
But this election will be huge. It is a cusp of historical possiblity, a pivot point on which the country’s, and maybe the world’s, future will turn.
If we lose, we lose. But it’s not over yet. We’ve got 44 days.