Friday, September 17, 2004

And This From One of His Supporters

Another interesting perspective on Bush from one of his quasi-supporters. Andrew Sullivan is a conservative -- which used to mean a Bush supporter -- but no more, now that Bush has created such an embarrassing and DUMB fiscal situation. Bush has guaranteed the term "fiscal conservative" now means a Democrat. I still believe Bush will lose by creating enormous cracks and ruptures within his own Republican ranks.

I was reading some stuff Andrew Sullivan wrote in August, and while we wait for the truth to come out about this CBS forged documents situation, it's easy to wonder if the whole thing was another Karl Rove/George Bush-initiated smear.
Last week, in this space, I crunched the numbers and found that, from the polling so far, this race was John Kerry's to lose unless the dynamic of the election suddenly changed. It appears that the Bush campaign has realized the same thing. And when the Bush family finds itself in difficult political waters, they have a long-established, sure-fire tactic. They find a way to detect their opponent's strongest card and discredit it. They do so using surrogates to keep their patrician hands clean, and they are absolutely not above the vilest of smears. And so last week, they made their move.

Kerry's undoubted strength is his service in Vietnam, his appeal to veterans (a key demographic), and his patriotism as a symbol of his fitness to be commander-in-chief. And so the Bush team went for the jugular. They knew that Vietnam is still a live issue among a certain generation. They knew that there were many Vietnam vets infuriated by the fact that John Kerry became an anti-war activist when he returned from combat duty. And they knew that in most chaotic military encounters, memories are blurred and details sketchy and that the military often gives medals to those who don't quite deserve them and fails to give medals to those who do. And so they decided to use some veterans to attack and discredit John Kerry's war service, to call into question his medals, and to depict him, in the title of the book now hurtling up the charts, as "Unfit to Command."

In some ways, you have to hand it to president Bush. He has cojones. Most politicians who found a cushy domestic out during Vietnam might be leery of attacking the war record of a man who volunteered for duty, took shrapnel, and got Purple Hearts for his courage and heroism. But not Bush. Recall that in 2000, at a very similar juncture in a tight presidential race against John McCain, the Bush campaign also unleashed the hounds against a man who had been imprisoned and tortured at the hands of the Viet Cong. Flyers appeared throughout South Carolina claiming that McCain had a black child, that he was the "fag candidate," that his wife was a drug addict, that his experience under torture had made him unstable, that he had "betrayed" veterans, and on and on. None of this could be traced directly to Bush, but no one was under any illusions. In public, Bush said he honored McCain's service. But his surrogates smeared him relentlessly. And McCain told Bush to his face in a debate that he should be "ashamed" by his campaign tactics.

Nothing is beneath this man. And he should be ashamed. But are all other Republicans willing to be dragged through the dirt with him? Are they willing to be soiled? What will be left for conservatives? How can they hold their heads high with this guy as their fearless leader?

Are they willing to have the word "Republican" redefined to mean Christian right-wing looney-tune losers who can't get a hold on their wallets and would stoop to anything to destroy their opposition? How can anyone Jewish or Gay or Female or Educated or Fiscally-Responsible or a Veteran vote for Bush?

It's so embarrassing to be a Republican these days. I used to think a third-party might be born out of a turbulent, unruly Democratic party -- but no more. If there is a more dissatisfied constituency than the Republicans, I don't know who the hell they are.