A Few Words about My Dog, Election 2004, and General Wesley Clark.
Several years ago, my wife and I adopted a puppy from the local animal shelter. She was one of a litter of strays that somebody had rounded up and brought in. When we went over to their holding cell, all of the dogs ran over to us, tails wagging. All of them except one. One stood at the back of the cage and trembled. But my wife and I are suckers, and so we had to give a home to the one that seemed the most pathetic. That 'fraidy dog is currently lying on the floor next to me, munching on a chew stick.
When we got home from the animal shelter, I noticed that this dog immediately preferred my wife and cowered whenever I approached her. After talking with a person who adopted another puppy from the same litter, we learned that her puppy behaved the same way. We surmised that the whole bunch must have been mistreated by a man at some point, which is why they preferred the company of women.
A couple of weeks after adopting our dog, we enrolled her in an obedience class for puppies. Our first session, which took place in a large pet store full of people and their dogs, produced an interesting behavior from our new pup. Despite her ingrained fear of me, she ignored my wife and stuck very close to me during our class. I was our tribe's leader and her fear of the rest of the world was stronger than her fear of me.
The other day, I was petting that pup and thinking about her odd behavior, when something suddenly occurred to me: America was acting just like our dog. After the trauma of the attacks on September 11, we saw the popularity of a U.S. president who previously enjoyed merely lukewarm support from Americans suddenly skyrocket. In the wake of a terrorist attack, a large segment of our citizenry suddenly needed to hide behind a man who lost the popular election less than a year earlier. And what had Bush done to suddenly earn their support? Nothing. He happened to be in charge when the towers fell. In short, these folks were afraid and that fear produced this irrational behavior.
Now, I'm not talking about everybody here. First of all, about a third of all Americans would support Bush even if he decreed that his $2,000-per-plate dinner guests could move into your house, eat your Ben and Jerry's, and sleep with your wife if they were so inclined. This 33%, the "Clinton-haters," are hopeless and will never be salvaged. Neither am I talking about those of us who stood behind the president in the days after the attacks solely on the issue of defense, at least until it was clear that he was about to make things worse (personally, I lasted about three days). I'm talking about those people who didn't vote for Bush in 2000, yet suddenly decided after 9/11 that he was doing a good job on issues like the economy and the environment. When you put these folks together with the Clinton-haters, a coalition of the Scared and the Stupid, if you will, you see a group of Americans who hold George W. Bush's best chance for re-election (assuming you thought he got elected the first time) in 2004. Nobody in this group has any interest in the fact that Bush's presidency has been a complete and utter failure. Pick your favorite measure of presidential success: Peace, prosperity, economic health, honesty, world wide respect, job security, environment, human rights, Wall Street, size and intrusiveness of government, deficit spending, education, health care, whatever. There is literally not a single aspect of our lives that hasn't worsened under the leadership of George W. Bush. Yet Team Bush 2004 knows that the previously mentioned coalition is not interested in any of this. They know that the Scared are too worried about survival to contemplate Bush's job performance and the Stupid think that living in an America that's circling toward the bottom of the bathroom bowl is better than prospering under a successful Democrat. When it comes to Election 2004, therefore, Bush knows that getting the Scared and the Stupid into the voting booth keeps him in office for four more years.
With this in mind, consider the Bush re-election strategy. Everybody knows that incumbents enjoy a huge advantage in elections. Logic therefore dictates that Bush could get re-elected even if his opponent outspends him. So why, do you ask, did Bush set his re-election war chest target at $200 million, easily twice what any Democratic opponent could be expected to raise? Good question. Come election time, if the Stupid get distracted by Race to the Altar 12 and the Scared begin to run out of adrenaline, it's going to take a lot of cash to re-scare and re-stupefy the electorate. The Bush folks think that $200 million should do the job. And the sad part is that they're probably right.
The best hope for the Democrats in 2004 could be a ticket that includes former NATO commander Wesley Clark as the candidate for vice president. This guy, who makes George W. Bush look like a draft-dodgin', coke-snortin' 4F sissy on all subjects military, would split the coalition of the Scared and the Stupid right down the middle. Now, I'm reluctant to support Clark for president because there are too many other Democratic candidates with stronger resumes. At this moment in history, however, the general would look damn good in the co-pilot's seat. And his mere presence on the ballot would scare the bejesus out of Dubya's handlers.
The best part about an Anybody/Clark ticket is that any attempts to scare America by the Committee to Re-elect the Moron would benefit Clark and the Democrats. $200 million spent on homeland security advertisements would be $200 million endorsing General Clark, regardless of whose picture showed up in the ads. Can't you just see Dick Cheney standing onstage next to the smarter, better-looking general at the debates, trying to portray him as weak on defense? Pair Clark with almost any Democratic candidate who can reasonably articulate the current state of America to the voters, and I see a Democratic landslide in 2004.
Now all we have to do is get somebody to count the votes.
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