Another bush cheerleader all but throws in the towel

We know the tide has turned when perennial bush apologist Howard Fineman says his man is appearing desperate and hopeless, caught between Iraq and a hard place.

George Bush’s real political enemy now isn’t so much John Kerry as it is the flow of the news. Not long ago, Kerry’s decision to attack the president as commander-in-chief (remember all those Swift Boat vets in Boston?) was dismissed by analysts (including me) as naïve at best, folly at worst. Well, it may turn out to have been the move that wins this race.

Presidential campaigns take on a life and shape of their own in the last stretch and this one now has. It’s the president desperately trying to tear down Kerry as the news tears down the president. Good things are happening in the war on terrorism — the voting in Afghanistan, for example — but they are all but unnoticed in the rising flood of stories from and about Iraq.

As things now stand, Bush is left with only one argument and justification for having launched a war that has cost 1,000 lives, $150 billion and whatever goodwill America had won in the aftermath of 9/11. His last-resort reason: Saddam Hussein might have developed weapons that he might have given to terrorists that might attack the United States. And even that reasoning is undermined by the new report of the Iraq Survey Group, which says that Saddam’s capacities, whatever they might have been, were withering, not “gathering,” under the weight of inspections.

So no we all know: the war was a hoax, and we were all hoodwinked, myself included. And not even shrub’s most forgiving critics can ignore that sad fact. When you screw up so colossally, so grotesquely, so completely, you are rarely given a second chance. It is becoming increasingly impossible for Americans to consider rewarding bush for his ineptitude and stupidity with yet another four years to lay waste to the country, and to the world.

Fineman doesn’t see a way out, not when the news about bush’s needless war is so horrifying. Simply by being on the other side of the political fence gives Kerry the upper hand.

The second and third presidential debates will shift the focus — the second, part way to domestic matters; the third, all the way. Bush’s aim will be to paint Kerry as an unpalatable liberal who accumulated nothing but bad Big Government ideas during his 19 years in the Senate. Kerry will answer, essentially, “I’m a Democrat.” In normal times that would not be a good enough answer, but if the tide of dissatisfaction with Bush as commander-in-chief rises high enough, being a Democrat — in other words not George Bush — may be good enough.

I don’t see that tide lowering any time soon, and it may well buoy Kerry to victory. And then we can truthfully proclaim, “Mission Accomplished.”

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