Americans do not think Mr. Bush has a persona to dazzle history, they think he is the average American man, but the average American man as they understand the term: straight shooter, hard worker, decent, America-loving, God-loving.
They can tell he is not doing it all by polls and focus groups. If he were doing it by polls and focus groups he wouldn't have defied the U.N., invaded Iraq, and pursued its democracy. He would have talked instead about nuance, multilateral negotiations and the need for child safety seats in SUVs. He moved on Iraq because he thought it was right and it would make the world safer. You can agree or disagree with him, but it is hard to doubt his guts, his seriousness and his commitment. And Americans respect guts, seriousness and commitment.
That does not mean Americans will give him a blank check and say: Go do what you want. It means they'll give him the benefit of the doubt and stand by him with cool eyes as long as they feel it's right for them and the country.
....If you want to fire the incumbent, you have to have someone to hire in his place. The guy who opposes the incumbent has to seem like a credible president. He has to be a real alternative, a possible president. So far, roughly four months into his national fame, John Kerry has not made the sale. There are people who have Bush-fatigue, but they do not have Kerry-hunger.
So far he doesn't seem like a possible president. He seems somewhat shifty, somewhat cold, an operator. He has a good voice but he seems to use it most to slither out of this former statement or that erstwhile position. It's OK that he looks like a sad tree, but you can't look like a sad, hollow tree. And it looks a little hollow in there. As if Iraq is an issue Kerry feels he has to handle deftly, and not a brutal question we have to solve, together. As if homeland security is an issue, or civil defense, or preparedness. They're not issues. They're life and death. Mr. Kerry doesn't seem to know.
Which is why he isn't gaining traction, or gaining purchase on the president. The Democrats and their nominee say on one day that Mr. Bush ignored terrorism, and on the next that he exaggerated the threat. They say his administration didn't give enough time to planning Iraq, then they say he was obsessed with Iraq. They say he's dimwitted and gullible, then they say he's evil and calculating--he cooked Iraq up in Texas, in Ted Kennedy's phrase.
You know why they can't define what's wrong with Mr. Bush? Because they don't even know what's wrong with him beyond that he is not them, not Mr. Kerry, not a Democrat.
Can the Democrats win this way? No.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Peggy Noonan has a great column explaining why Bush is maintaining a lead over Kerry despite all the bad news there has been recently.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 9:35 AM