Dubya's Campaign to Make Hillary Our Next President

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Today is Day
One in George W. Bush's official war against Iraq (he's been conducting
an unofficial war against Iraq for months). Today is also Day One
in his campaign to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the
United States.

Talk about
the unintended consequences of war! The only question in my mind
is whether she will take him on in 2004 or succeed him in 2008.
It depends on how fast the emperor's Middle East fiefdom begins
to unravel.

Given our overwhelming
military superiority, I expect the initial U.S. victory to be quick
and clean (as clean as any military action ever is). For the sake
of our troops, I certainly hope that is the case. Most of them are
simply too young and naïve to understand that they are mere
pawns of the politicians and power brokers; certainly their "education"
in government schools never led them to comprehend anything more
complex than sound-bite patriotism. I wish them no harm, just as
I wish the Iraqi people no harm.

There are problems
that can't be solved with any amount of military hardware, however,
and those problems will surface as soon as the American flag flies
from Saddam's palace in Baghdad. Shi'ites versus Sunnis, for example,
and Turks versus Kurds. The question of how the U.S. can control
the oil fields and oil production in Iraq without openly seeming
to have control — call that a problem in political engineering.
Above all, given how our military bases in Saudi Arabia served as
recruitment posters for Osama bin Laden, imagine the much greater
impact of an American occupation of Iraq.

Imagine, also,
the potential impact of terrorist counterattacks on the world economy.
Japan is in a deflationary mode; Europe is mired in welfarist quicksand;
and U.S. consumers are getting worried at long last about their
lack of savings to protect them from the economic boogeyman. If
terrorists strike at a number of airplanes and cruise ships and
tankers, there goes the tourist industry — the largest industry
in the world — and the transportation industries, and with them
the world economy.

Such terrorist
counterattacks are not a necessary condition for American disaster.
The cost of the Iraqi war and occupation is more than enough in
itself. American support for Bush's war is lukewarm at best. (The
prevailing theme seems to be that the president is determined to
have his war, so let's get it over with.) When it becomes apparent
that the neocons are serious about perpetual war, and our troops
don't come home for the family's July 4 picnic, the public's mood
will turn quite sour, quite fast. And that's where Hillary Rodham
Clinton comes out of the shadows. Hillary's route to the White House
will be through Baghdad.

A Nation
Divided

Republicans
and conservatives are enjoying their hubris right now. Let them
enjoy it while they can. It's based on a presidential election where
a genuinely awful Democratic candidate won the popular vote, and
a congressional election so close that a switch of 50,000 votes
in key states would have made the Democrats the victors. Those elections
will not go down in the history books as Operation Enduring Mandate.
The tiniest shift in public opinion can bring the Democrats back
to power, and the shift resulting from an Iraqi quagmire isn't likely
to be tiny.

The question
is, which Democrat will lead the charge? Aye, there's the
rub. The Democratic Party isn't exactly a hotbed of talent right
now. Dubya's hope for salvation lies in the parlous state of the
Democratic leadership.

The one exception
is Hillary. She's talented, all right, as in: "Stalin was a
talented Russian." In good times her undisguised drive for
power makes her unacceptable to a majority of Americans. In bad
times that could change — look at the other ruthless tyrants we've
elected in bad times, with their promises to give us a new deal.

Enter a Quinnipiac
University nationwide poll, taken in February and March of this
year. This respected polling operation matched George W. Bush against
an unnamed Democrat, as well as potential Democratic candidates
against each other and Bush.

Bush vs.
Unnamed Democrat

By a 48-44
percent margin, American voters said they would vote for the as-yet-unnamed
Democratic candidate for president over GOP incumbent Bush. Despite
a 53-39 percent personal approval rating, Bush was the victim of
concerns about war and the economy.

Only 9 percent
of American voters are "very satisfied" with the way things
are going in the nation today. That's a pretty small hard core.
While 31 percent listed war with Iraq as the nation's most important
problem, nearly as many — 27 percent — listed the economy and unemployment.
Given the billions of dollars Bush has been spending to make the
war issue paramount, he hasn't been that successful in this PR campaign.

"The political
winds are hard to read this early in the game," says Maurice
Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute,
"but we do know that war and a bad economy are not good for
anyone — especially sitting presidents."

Democrats
vs. Each Other

There's no
doubt that Hillary is the leading choice of Democrats nationwide.
Here's how she stacked up against her potential primary competitors
in the Quinnipiac poll:

  • New York
    Sen. Hillary Clinton: 37 percent.
  • Missouri
    Rep. Richard Gephardt: 13 percent.
  • Connecticut
    Sen. Joseph Lieberman: 12 percent.
  • Massachusetts
    Sen. John Kerry: 8 percent.
  • North Carolina
    Sen. John Edwards and Florida Sen. Bob Graham: 4 percent each.
  • Former Vermont
    Gov. Howard Dean, Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, and Ohio
    Rep. Dennis Kucinich: 3 percent each.
  • Rev. Al
    Sharpton: 2 percent.

Without Clinton
in the race, most of her support goes to Lieberman, placing him
at the head of the pack.

Bush vs.
Named Democrats

It quickly
becomes obvious that a lot of voters like the idea of "a Democrat"
but aren't that enthusiastic about the current crop of Democrats.
Here are Quinnipiac's results when the Democratic candidate is named:

  • Bush over
    Lieberman 49–43 percent.
  • Bush over
    Kerry 50–42 percent.
  • Bush over
    Gephardt 51–42 percent.
  • Bush over
    Clinton 52–41 percent.
  • Bush over
    Edwards 50–39 percent.
  • Bush over
    Dean 53–36 percent.
  • Bush over
    Sharpton 61–23 percent.

I can see the
e-mails a comin': How can you say Hillary will be elected president
in 2004 or 2008, when Bush is beating all the Democrats and
she's not doing as well against him as Lieberman, Kerry, or Gephardt?

Very simple.
To the first objection: Yes, Bush beat them all, but this was before
his Iraqi odyssey even began, and before the s— (make that: sand)
hits the fan, so to speak.

And in answer
to the second objection: The Democratic candidate first has to be
nominated before he or she faces Bush, and we know that Democratic
primary voters are more liberal than voters in general, just as
Republican primary voters are more conservative. Look at how Hillary
cleans up against the other Democrats.

My expectation
is that Hillary, an astute politician who is married to another
astute politician, is being so quiet right now because she really
doesn't want to run in 2004. It's too much, too soon for a first-term
Senator. Let someone else take the fall and then she can run — and
win — in 2008. But she could change her timetable at the last moment
if things unravel quickly in Iraq.

And maybe Bush
and his Neocon Shadow Cabinet can pull it off, giving us
a real quick in-and-out war, a Real Man's War, if you will — call
it a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'm kind of war. I don't think so. The
neocons don't want a quick exit, and every war has its unintended
consequences. This time around, yet another President Clinton is
likely to be one of those unintended consequences.

 

March
19, 2003

David
Franke [send him mail] is
one of the founders of the conservative movement, having organized
(with his college roommate) the first nationwide conservative activist
organization in the late 1950s. When Poppy Bush was nominated for
the presidency by the GOP, he marched to his voter registration
office and changed registration from Republican to Independent,
and has slept a lot more soundly since then.


     

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