We’ve examined the combinations with regard to Iraq. Let’s examine the combinations with regard to Bush’s re-election.
Most analysis of the election that LI reads in the paper is determined by a very short horizon: what happened this week. Or last week. And what the polls say about it.
But let’s try to take another approach, and look at the bad news and good news possibilities held by this year. If good news is taken to help Bush, what good news can he expect?
It was the orthodoxy – from October to December – that he would be enjoying great economic headlines in 2004. The newest employment figures rather kick that in the head. Plus the figures that aren’t being publicized – the dip dip dip of the value of the dollar. If unemployment doesn’t go down, the money flowing into the market might start seeking to take advantage of the dollar’s currently low status. This would be a double whammy of bad news for Bush.
This is the hardest thing to predict. Economists have never found a way to map their models over the actual working economy, even though certain models do have predictive power in the long run. But what matters, at the moment, is that if there is no change, this will be bad news for Bush. That possibility should hedge any prediction of a Bush landslide, such as those that are being pitched about by the right. Because bad news, here, is either remain the same news, or actual bad news – the return of the recession --
The best news, outside of a boom, for Bush would be the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden. The timing of Saddam H.’s capture was really fortunate for the Dems – if it had happened in June of this year, for instance, the good news would certainly float Bush into the general election like the Queen of the Rose Bowl.
So, one would expect a stirring up of the troops to bring Bush Osama’s head. Best time for him would be about August. If I were a Democrat, I would be figuring out how to pre-empt that. Bush has rather screwed himself, here, however: there are not enough American troops, we think, to operate against Osama as Americans operated against Saddam. This means relying on the Pakistanis or Afghans to capture the guy. We imagine that there will be some shift of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan this year, but we wonder whether that won’t bring up more questions than it is worth.
I think all the good news has been squeezed out of Iraq. The news from now to November is probably going to be bad. American casualties, recalcitrant Iraqis, blah blah blah. The best option for the administration is closing down discussion of Iraq, but that will be difficult when it defines the administration. Especially given the jingos who want to take a shot at Syria and Iran. The consensus of D.C. people seems to be that Iraq will be a net gain for Bush, but I don’t see how they figure that.
LI thought surely corruption – the culture of corruption in top management, and the complicity of Bush’s people in that corruption – would be a big Bush deficit. It hasn’t worked out that way. Put this down to our class bias. In actuality, even people who were totally screwed by Enron just aren’t interested in seeing Jeff Skilling’s head on a platter.
As for Bad news that could help Bush – the one thing that springs to mind is another attack on the Homeland. LI believes that this possibility should sink the Prez – after all, he’s been in office three years. No way to blame this one on Clinton. But the Republicans have invested years of irrationally aggressive rhetoric with the electorate. We all like to think that the bully is unmasked, in the end, but in reality, the bully can go on for a long time. If there is an attack in September or October, Bush is a shoo-in. Again, this is due to multiple failings – for instance, the failure of the press to investigate why we were vulnerable to four parties of truly amateur hijackers in 2001; whether the Bush administration’s findings about the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in June of that year should have sent up flags; etc. etc. The official story has solidified: a heroic president, making it back in a crisis to D.C., and directing a response that crushed the enemy. The counter-story is confused: should Bush have pre-empted Osama bin? But aren’t we critics of pre-emption? It doesn’t have clarity or momentum. If an attack comes early this year, a lot will depend on the scope .of it. LI doesn’t see how the U.S. can scrape up an extra 400 billion dollars to inject into the economic system to counter the inevitable bad effects of an attack on the scale of 9/11. However, never underestimate the credit limit of Uncle Sam.
That’s the coldest eye we can cast on the possible major good and bad news during the next eleven months. Of course, LI is not a prophet or magician. Low level events – from some personal failing or virtue of Bush, to some celebrity trial, to whatever – can change the value of these factors trememdously. But it is a good start on constructing the salient combinations for this election – and a much better exercise than some exegesis of the polls, which seems to be the only thing journalists know how to do.
In a later post, we will try to properly construct these factors into combinations.