What might have been

Posted: Jun 27, 2005 12:00 AM

In an alternate universe, the early exit polls were correct. Sen. John Kerry was elected president. Here’s a recent front-page newspaper article from that universe:

Kerry deserves credit for spread of democracy, experts say

News Analysis

By: A series of staff writers

What a difference a year makes. Just 12 months ago, in the midst of a vicious presidential campaign, the entire world seemed to be falling apart. Daily bombings in Iraq. A sluggish economy here at home. But these days it seems everything is on the upswing.

For example, in the Middle East, Lebanon just completed a successful round of elections, with anti-Syrian candidates winning dozens of seats. That voting came just a few months after Syrian president Basher Assad agreed to withdraw his troops from Lebanon. Some 15,000 soldiers and thousands more intelligence agents were pulled in March.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a country that had become a Vietnam-style quagmire under former President George W. Bush, is rebounding well. January elections have brought new hope to the Iraqi people, and a growing number of Iraqi security forces are now policing their own country.
Analysts say that President Kerry’s policies were responsible for both the Syrian withdrawal and the improvement in Iraq.

“During last year’s presidential campaign here in the U.S., Kerry made a point of remaining above the fray,” noted former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “He didn’t politicize the Iraqi situation, instead focusing on the importance of holding elections there. We all knew all along that Iraq was ready to vote, that it would be the catalyst to a new Middle East.”

Albright spoke with reporters during a lull in her confirmation hearings to be ambassador to UNESCO. She’s expected to be confirmed easily, despite obstructionist tactics by some radical right-wing senators. Majority leader Bill Frist has promised that none of President Kerry’s nominees will be filibustered, a step he was said to be considering until recent outraged editorials in leading newspapers (including this one) demanded that all the nominees get up-or-down votes.

President Kerry’s Jan. 20 Inaugural Address is also cited as a critical moment. “We stand ready to fight with all those who favor freedom and democracy,” Kerry intoned from the steps of the Capitol, igniting a fire that continues to spread, unidentified administration sources say.
As if to prove that, Egypt’s president recently announced he’d like to see more democracy, so he’ll allow competition in this fall’s presidential election. In fact, the entire Middle East seems to be moving swiftly toward freedom and democracy.

In addition, the new president has already taken steps to mend fences with Europe’s democracies. Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke completed a successful tour of European capitals last month and plans to visit Asia next. And Kerry himself has broken bread with European leaders, who often opposed the United States during the Bush administration.

Indeed, Kerry’s beneficial effects were evident even before he took office. During the waning days of the Bush administration, President-elect Kerry let it be known he expected Russia to allow free and fair elections in Ukraine. Newly elected President Viktor Yushchenko thanked Kerry for that support by immediately withdrawing all Ukranian forces from Iraq.

A representative of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation claimed that the changes in the region were all triggered by policies put into place by former President Bush. “It’s notable the President Kerry hasn’t actually changed much. I think he’s just benefiting from the policies Bush advocated,” the analyst said.

Others disagree. “Clearly everything changed on Nov. 2,” said Jamie Rubin, new undersecretary of state. “Winning the war in Iraq has made us safer, as John Kerry knows, and has often said. But it was Kerry’s brilliant plans that allowed us to move forward and remake the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, the American economy continues to rebound from the doldrums of the Bush administration. The unemployment rate was a low 5.1 percent in May, well down from last year’s 5.6 percent. And White House advisors note that the economy has added hundreds of thousands of jobs since President Kerry took office in January.

They were not able to provide examples of exactly what he’s done to generate those jobs, but they did note that his very presence in the Oval Office has provided a boost to American businesses. And in a recent news conference, Kerry promised to “keep working until every American who wants a job has one.”

Whew. Aren’t you glad you don’t live in this universe?