Friday, October 29, 2004


Shadows of 1988

How much of the “w” Bush presidency is about fighting his father’s “wimp factor”?

It’s gotten lost in more pressing issues of the presidential race, but now and then during the “w” Bush presidency we’ve heard about the obsession of Bush and his advisors not to repeat Bush Sr.’s political mistakes leading to his one-term presidency.

You may remember in during the Republican presidential primaries for the 1988 election, Newsweek did cover story profiling George H. W. Bush entitled “The Wimp Factor.”

It was silly to pin the wimp thing on Bush, which seems premised on a totally misguided view of what makes a good president. Bush’s problem was not lack of macho, but rather that he seems to have been a man of very ordinary abilities with no strong principles or moral vision, who worked his way up through elite connections. Still, Bush Sr could never completely shake off the “wimp” image, notwithstanding Desert Storm.

George w Bush should, by all rights, be seen as a far lesser man than even his father. But his handlers, no doubt painfully aware of the genetic wimp factor, have painstakingly cultivated a persona for their guy of a tough Texan cowboy sort. It has been a classic Hollywood mock-up of an effort, right down to building him a ranch completed just after the 2000 election. The man is not a rancher. I wouldn’t be surprised if even “w”’s thick Texas drawl, which contributes immeasurably to this image, is exaggerated – Jeb doesn’t have one anything like it.

The more interesting and important issue, though, is a Bush “Iraq complex.” In February 1991, at the successful conclusion of Operation Desert Storm, “Poppy” Bush had an 89% approval rating, and looked like a shoe-in for re-election. Yet his popularity rapidly dissipated, and Bush was defeated in his 1992 re-election bid, winning only 37% of the popular vote in the three-way race.

It’s scary to think what “w” and Karl Rove and other top Republican strategists made of Bush Sr.’s defeat. I like to think that the American people could see through the hype of a successful military campaign against a third world dictator to the fact that Bush Sr. was just not that good a president. But for the Republicans, perhaps the lesson was a variant on the “catastrophic success” theme: if we win too fast, the public will forget us by election time.

I’m not suggesting that the Bush administration intentionally got bogged down in Iraq knowing it would become a quagmire. But I am suggesting that they decided to destroy the Saddam Hussein regime and occupy the country in order to avoid the "mistake" of Bush Sr., in letting his great triumph be forgotten by election time. The w Bush administration believed that reconstructing Iraq would extend the “success” of Iraq to this current election, and promote w’s re-election chances.

The fact that the Bush administration believed their own wishful thinking about reconstruction in Iraq is by now well known, but the point is they really did believe they’d be just starting to pull the troops out of a fully democratized and stable Iraq by about now, and making it the centerpiece of the re-election campaign. Again, these are people who will politicize absolutely anything – including the decision to invade a country.

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]