The bumbler bowls them over

Posted: Nov 08, 2002 12:00 AM
How can this have happened? President Bush, the Democrats have been telling us, is such a moron that he can't speak. Why, he's such a bumbler that it's impossible to believe he really runs the White House. He's really just a marionette. It's Dick Cheney secretly manipulating all the strings. Besides, he was "selected not elected" in 2000. Perhaps now, picking over the wreckage of their election debacle -- a defeat delivered to them by George W. Bush personally -- the Democrats will cease underestimating the president. But let's hope not. Ronald Reagan became one of the great presidents of the 20th century while Democrats kept insisting that he was a simpleton. By choosing to gamble some of his political capital by campaigning hard in the mid-term elections, the President was Rooseveltian (Theodore, not Franklin); demonstrating that he appreciates the value of boldness. He further revealed that, unlike his father, he understands that political capital must be spent to be valuable. If you let it sit in the refrigerator, it gets moldy. Bush has shown the world that a president can gain seats in the first mid-term election of his tenure. But this is not the first time he's defied conventional wisdom. -- When everyone argued that following his narrow victory in 2000, he couldn't possibly succeed in passing tax cuts, he persisted and prevailed. The Democrats howled that these were a "giveaway" to the wealthiest one percent of the nation. But in 2002, few Democrats were willing to make those tax cuts an election issue. -- When world conventional wisdom held that the United States simply had to deal with Yasser Arafat, President Bush declined to give him fifth, sixth and seventh chances. He simply announced that the United States hoped to see new and democratic leadership for the Palestinian Authority. Within weeks of this confident announcement, European diplomats and even Middle Eastern leaders were hinting that their patience with Arafat was exhausted as well. -- When Washington, D.C., insiders urged that no federal agency could be created without the approval of powerful public employee unions, President Bush held his ground. When the Democratic Senate refused to pass the Homeland Security bill, the president took the issue to the American people. Several Democrats, including Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, were badly weakened by their opposition to the president. In the next Congress, one of the earliest priorities will be to pass the Homeland Security Bill in the form the president requested, with executive discretion to hire, transfer and fire those in sensitive national security posts. The message of this election was that foreign policy, traditionally a Republican strength, is back. For exactly 10 years, between 1991 and 2001, the world seemed serene and unthreatening. It was no accident (as the communists used to say) that during that reprieve, American voters were content with a Democratic president. Contrast that with the years between 1968 and 1988. In six presidential elections during the latter half of the Cold War, the period when Democrats went permanently soft on defense, voters elected just one Democrat (Jimmy Carter), and he held himself out as a Navy man and nuclear engineer. (Moreover he benefited from the Watergate scandal.) Sept. 11, 2001 drew the curtain on our dreamy, unserious interlude and reintroduced us to fear. It also reawakened our appreciation for the more masculine virtues: determination and strength. Chris Matthews has usefully divided the parties into the "mommy party," the Democrats, and the "daddy party," the Republicans. When times are good, you turn to mom, who promises to provide more services and more compassion, and demands less personal responsibility. But when threats loom, Americans turn to dad, who takes no guff from us but also reaches for the Winchester hanging over the front door when hostile strangers approach. The country remains divided -- but the presence of a foreign threat tilts the board slightly, but nonetheless decisively, toward the Republicans. While Democrats are sorting all of this out, they should pause to ask themselves how such a moron handed them their heads.