Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Four More Years?

It really is quite remarkable that none of the Republican hopefuls (save the hopeless Ron Paul) have tried to create any distance between their respective platforms, and that of a President who is nearing record levels of unpopularity. Is there no candidate in the field that recognizes the opportunity to claim the disaffected?

On the contrary. Rather than try to chart a different course, or offer an alternative yet still (truer?) conservative option, the keystone candidates have been falling all over themselves trying to prove to the electorate that they are more George Bush than...well, George Bush.

Mitt Romney famously declared that he thought so much of Bush's lawless detention and torture policies that he would in fact double the size and prison population at the Guantanamo Bay facility (a show of bluster that comes, oddly enough, at a time when the Bush administration itself is looking at ways to reduce or shut down Gitmo).

As more and more Americans begin to understand that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, Iraq had no ties to al-Qaeda and, thus, that invading Iraq was a major distraction and monumental setback in the war on al-Qaeda, Giuliani was quick to assert:

It's unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror.

Think again Rudy.

(see, also, Giuliani's claim that the Bush administration has been overly concerned with the plight of the Palestinians, and too unbalanced in favor of Israel's adversary)

What is most puzzling to me, however, is that with an electorate seemingly primed for the maverick, independent minded, agent of change persona that John McCain carefully cultivated over many years, John McCain himself...broke the other way and embraced the Bush administration and the doctrinaire right! If there ever was a year to run against the Party establishment, this was it, and yet McCain exposed himself as a man without convictions, and in his effort to please all, succeeded in appealing to none.

Perhaps McCain is still smarting from his previous attempts to position himself toward the center, and the straight shooter was unduly gun shy. Maybe the Republican base demands fealty to a vision of America that is wildly at odds with the American public as a whole and that, ultimately, McCain was in a lose-lose situation. Still, you'd think he'd at least go out in a blaze of righteous glory rather than fade into obscurity a - tarnished figure in what is likely his last bid for the presidency.

Maybe this counterintuitive message discipline, and loyalty to the Party's leader, represents the death rattle of Karl Rove's legacy. One last throe of the dice for a field of candidates still in the thrall of the supposed maestro, only recently revealed as the charlatan he is. Either way, it sure is making life easy on the Democrats. Think about it: after this primary is over, the Democratic nominee can point to her/his opponent and simply say, "If you want four more years of Bush/Cheney, vote for my opponent." Could there be a better slogan? And yet, each of the Republican front-runners appears eager to make that same pitch themselves, loudly proclaiming to anyone who will listen, "If you want four more years of double Bush/Cheney, vote for me!" Let's hope it becomes a popular chant at the eventual Republican convention.

Along these lines, Rudy Giuliani has just attached his name to a foreign policy manifesto that picked through the worst of the Bush administration's narrow, unilateral, diplomacy-averse, warmongering, constitution-debasing, rancor and left behind the rest. The piece, appearing in Foreign Affairs, is comprised almost entirely of chaff, with the wheat itself left on the threshing floor. Matt Yglesias and Jim Henley provide all the eviscerating attention this tract deserves - and then some.

In my less enlightened moments, I'm tempted to rejoice at the dearth of vision and strategic daftness on the Republican side as we head into full-blown campaign season. This is a hollow feeling of schadenfreude though. I would much rather have a saner, more principled Republican Party - one not entirely devoted to the radicalism and failures of the last six-plus years. Even if it meant a tougher fight for the Democrats.

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