Benazir Bhutto's Murder Raises the Primary Stakes

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jan 03, 2008 11:02 AM
Benazir Bhutto's Murder Raises the Primary Stakes

Now begins the primary season — in earnest. Who will win? Impossible to know. Who should win? Easy — at least on the Republican side.

The fundamental tasks of any national government are two: to protect the populace and stabilize the economy.

Benazir Bhutto’s murder reminds, albeit too vividly, of the terror war we are in. The mortgage crisis brought to us by top lending institutions (can you say savings-and-loans?) suggests destabilization of an economy on a roll since shortly after 9/11.

The president gets little credit for Pax Bush — no subsequent attacks on the American heartland. However one seeks to dismiss this president and his administration, he has protected the populace by heightened domestic vigilance and carrying the war to the enemy abroad — the latter on the indisputable principle, voiced by him so many times, that it is better to fight the enemy there than here. And Bush receives little credit for the tax-cut-based economic stability that has endured through most of his presidency.

Recall, please, the Democratic record. A year ago, when Democrats took control of Congress, they passed a five-year budget resolution that assumes — assumes — expiration of the Bush tax cuts. In addition, every Democrat on the presidential trail recommends raising taxes in one form or another: on Social Security (by raising the income cap), on income, on estates, on capital gains. There is but limited support, statistical or historical, for the proposition that raising taxes ever increases economic stability.

The Democratic record on taxes and the economy is one reason the Democrats have driven public approval of Congress to historic lows (yes, well lower than public approval of President Bush). The other reason is the pitiful, shameless yearlong Democratic enterprise to undermine the now seemingly successful war effort at every turn — even to cut funding for the very troops the Democrats insist they support.

During the past year the Democrats’ hammered out an 0-40 congressional record on votes affecting the war in Iraq, so it’s not for their lack of trying to niggle, harass, defund and withdraw. On the campaign trail, the Democratic response to the Bhutto murder has been to blast Bush — to say his departure from the White House cannot come soon enough — and to insist on the removal of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf. Never mind that, respect Musharraf or not, he may be the only individual in the way of Pakistani rule by the great Osama or his sidekick Zawahiri — or whoever is al-Qaida’s regnant throat-slitter.

In the run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democrats — to the extent they have not dismissed the jihadist threat as but a bug on the windshield — have sought to emphasize their experience in foreign affairs. Barack Obama has none. Hillary Clinton has none either — except, e.g., incidentally riding a camel with Chelsea and as consort to Bill, who testifies to her foreign-policy credentials earned during his presidency with all the believability of his testimonies about what he did with “that woman” and countless others.

All the Republicans want to hold the line on taxes and the Bush tax cuts, or to cut taxes further; to achieve fairness and simplicity, several mention replacing the progressive income tax with a value-added or national sales tax — or a flat tax (everyone pays the same tax percentage on total income).

Most recognize the critical importance of prosecuting the war on terror to a successful conclusion, but only two make legitimate claims to experience in it — Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Both also make sense on the economy, not something that can be said of Mike Huckabee.

Obama may have summarized his foreign-policy credentials last year when he said the U.S. should bomb Pakistan if Musharraf doesn’t deal with al-Qaida.

Hillary Clinton burnishes hers by comfortingly outlining husband Bill’s role in her prospective administration: “He will not have a formal, official role, but just as presidents rely on wives, husbands, fathers, (and) friends of long years, he will be my close confidant and adviser — as I was with him.” Bill reciprocates: “I think (Hillary) is the best-qualified person seeking the presidency I’ve ever had a chance to vote for, including me in 1992.”

Still, she has met with more foreign swells than any of the Democratic seekers, by that measure making her the most “experienced” of the bunch.

Yet the Democrats have no one approaching Giuliani or McCain in experience genuine and true. And mavericky and irascible though he may be, McCain — a war hero who holds Barry Goldwater’s Arizona Senate seat and has demonstrated ability to attract independents — possesses the best creds for voters retaining the sense that prosecuting the terror war to victory still matters.