July 12, 2003

Like father, like son?

Clyde Prestowitz, a former Reagan aide, predicts Bush may risk losing the next election if no WMD are found in Iraq and the situation there remains problematic with American casualties continuing to rise:

The future of the Bush administration could well be at stake. Having criticised President Clinton severely for moral lapses and dishonesty and played the card of born-again Christianity, Bush must be seen to be absolutely honest with the American public. Indeed, much of his political appeal derives from his black-and-white, good-guy, bad-guy Texas rhetoric. If that turns out to be false, he is likely to be hoist with his own petard.

The first signs of Bush’s potential vulnerability are becoming apparent. If the situation in Iraq continues, with a steady stream of US casualties, no apparent end in sight and no good explanation of why we are there, and if the US economy remains sluggish with rising unemployment, Bush could be in deep trouble. Indeed, the parallels with his father’s situation in 1992 are striking. Then the senior Bush appeared unbeatable, so much so that the major Democratic candidates stayed out of the race. But a little known Arkansas governor sensed the feet of clay and went for the gold. This time a little-known Vermont governor, Howard Dean, also sees possible feet of clay and is running for the gold. He has charisma on the stump and a powerful fundraising machine. More importantly, unlike the other Democratic candidates who have supported Bush on the war or kept silent, he has clearly defined himself as the anti-unilateralist and the anti-pre-emptive war candidate. Few give him a chance at the moment. But then, no one thought Bill Clinton could win either.