Not to worry. The new conventional wisdom is that it was the sheer meanness of the Republicans that earned them the bounce, and so Kerry's hitting back saying he's not going to be criticised by a President and Vice-President who weren't in Vietnam. If you didn't serve in Vietnam, you can't criticise John Kerry. On the other hand, if you did serve in Vietnam and you criticise John Kerry, that just means you're a "Republican smear artist". Either way, don't criticise John Kerry, because, if you do, he'll spend his next 10 campaign rallies droning on about how he's not going to take criticism.
The Kerry campaign is a bore that's degenerating into a laughing stock.
"Bush-despising" is no doubt very comforting to McCrum's beleaguered literati but in the end it's little more than snobbery - fine for cocktail condescension but utterly inadequate for an election campaign. You can't beat something with nothing, and Kerry is about as spectacular a nothing as you could devise - a thin-skinned whiny vanity candidate who persists in deluding himself that Bush's advantage is all down to "smears" and "lies" and "mean" "attacks". It's not.
...Wallace Shawn, by contrast, is a writer, a man who makes his living by words and yet devalues his own currency. Is the Bush-Cheney tyranny truly a "scary" time for him? Is he really "scared"? Of course not. He's having a convivial drink with a fawning Brit interviewer; what could be more agreeable?
"Scary" is - to pluck at random - being held hostage in a school gym and the kid next to you is parched and asks for water and the terrorist stabs him in the belly in front of your eyes. "Scary" cannot encompass both that situation and Wallace Shawn's vague distaste for Bush without losing all meaning.
"This Russian school business works for the Republicans," a Democrat griped to me over the weekend. Alas, it does - because it's a reminder for those who need it that the war on terror isn't some racket cooked up to boost Halliburton profits but a profound challenge to America and the world.
Could what happened in Beslan happen in the US? Two months ago, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on a fellow called Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, a suspected terrorist who'd fought with his fellow jihadi in Chechnya and somehow wound up in Minnesota, where he'd applied for licences to transport hazardous materials and drive school buses.
Americans who care about this stuff know where George W Bush stands. They're not sure where the Democrats do - sometimes it's full-scale Michael Moore denial, at other times it's going through the multilateral motions with Kofi and Co. No point on that continuum is of sufficient electoral appeal.
Last week, apropos the Islamists' impressive mound of Israeli, Nepalese and Russian corpses, Kofi Annan's office issued the following statement: "The secretary-general strongly condemns all hostage-takings and killings of innocent civilians."
Or, as Cole Porter wrote in Friendship: "If they ever put a bullet through your brain, I'll complain."
That's the UN policy on Sudan. Americans don't want it to be the policy in the war on terror. That's why they'll stick with Bush.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Mark Steyn notes how the elite liberals are all talking to each others and so are out of touch with how the campaign is really going.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 7:45 PM