Saturday, May 10, 2003


Notice how Democrats and other liberal media types are pinning their hopes on a bad economy to defeat George W. Bush. That was the only lesson they learned from the 1990s. Somehow, the unbeatable Geroge HW Bush was beaten because the economy was in the dungeon. Nonsense, I say. Three other hurdlers did in Bush 41.

Pat Buchanan was the first hurdle. Buchanan opened up Bush’s weakness not on the economy, but on economics. Bush’s no new taxes broken promise, insured that conservatives would never trust him again.

Ross Perot’s complaints about the deficit made moderates question the wisdom of a Bush second term.

And for the first time in 30 years, the Democrats had a youthful vibrant candidate that could win on his charm.

A lot had to go wrong for Bush to lose, but he played his hand poorly every step of the way. The Democrats told Bush in 1990 that there wouldn’t be any budget at all if he wouldn’t rescind his pledge not to raise taxes. He wasn’t a good enough politician to see the trap they were setting for him. He thought he was compromising for the betterment of the country. They promised to cut spending with a tax hike and Bush figured the deficit would shrink.

Once he made that deal with Democrats, other Democrats were now free to claim he was a liar that broke his tax pledge. This set the stage for Buchanan to rip him inside the Republican Party. When the Democrats didn’t reduce spending like they promised, it gave Perot ammunition to complain that big deficits were ruining the country. Those two guys defeated Bush before he ever faced Clinton.

So once you take a battle weary Bush and put him up against the young charming charismatic savior, it was all but done. Going into the Democratic convention, no one gave Clinton any chance of winning, but Perot did something that sealed victory. After the second night of the convention Perot dropped out of the race citing a resurgent Democratic Party. Perot was statistically tied for the lead at that point and I think he was afraid that he might actually win, something that he hadn’t planned. Perot just wanted to be a protest candidate, not the president. That immediately pushed Clinton from third to first, a lead he would never relinquish.

It’s always said that Bush 41 was surprised that people would elect Bill Clinton despite his character flaws, but Bush missed his own point. It was Bush’s willingness to break his tax promise that led to his down downfall via Buchanan and Perot. Bush was a better man, but operationally the people chose a guy who lied about his personal life over a guy who lied about raising taxes.

This is all important, because it highlights why everybody is wrong about the economy deciding the next election. We’re not over a war like in 1992, but we’re in the middle of one. The people are going to want a President that stands strong in his willingness to defeat terrorism. Most Democrats have already squandered their credibility on the issue by attacking Bush’s decisions. Clinton’s shrewd campaign move in 1992 was praising everything that Bush did in the war, therefore co-opting the issue and making people think that Clinton had every bit as much resolve at Bush. That’s the first lesson the Democrats missed from the 1990s.

The second lesson was that character does count. The Republicans would have never regained Congress without Bill Clinton’s inability to be genuine. Democrats were always showing poll numbers that said Clinton was more popular than Gingrich, but that didn’t cost the Republicans Congress. They didn’t like Gingrich as much, but it was an issue of boastfulness not character. But Clinton moral lapses most certainly caused Gore the Presidency. The people were Clinton-fatigued, and wanted a man they could trust. Gore while a good man, was weighted down by a corrupt one.

And that comes to the final thing the Democrats didn’t learn about the 1990s. If elections were about economics then Gore would have won the election in 2000 on the strength of a seemingly strong economy, and The Republicans wouldn’t have made gains in Congress in 2002 due to a weak economy. Both of the last two elections showed that character trumps everything else.

The only thing that can beat Bush in 2004 is a candidate who is more trustworthy. That can only happen if Bush has a moral lapse. They can't co-opt the war issue because most of them have been critical of Bush the whole way. So the pundits can spend the next 18 months talking about the economy, and since the economy is likely to improve, they will be certain Bush won because for reasons which I think are spurious. But if the economy doesn’t improve according to the media, just wait for the looks on their faces when Bush wins anyway.

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