October 31, 2004 | 6:26 PM ET

Lots of people who had issues with George W. Bush have been declaring for him lately.  (I've had issues with him all along, disagreeing on abortion, stem cells, and spending, but to me the war is issue number one, and Kerry's flaccidity there has been apparent for a while).  It's worth quoting from one of them:  Megan McArdle, who has ended her long undecided streak with this reflection:

Ultimately, I've decided to take the advice of a friend's grandmother, who told me, on her wedding day, that I should never, ever marry a man thinking he'd change. "If you can't live with him exactly the way he is," she told me, "then don't marry him, because he'll say he's going to change, and he might even try to change, but it's one in a million that he actually will."

Kerry's record for the first fifteen years in the Senate, before he knew what he needed to say in order to get elected, is not the record of anyone I want within spitting distance of the White House war room.  Combine that with his deficits on domestic policy -- Kerry's health care plan would, in my opinon, kill far more people, and cost more, than the Iraq war ever will -- and it's finally clear.  For all the administration's screw-ups -- and there have been many -- I'm sticking with the devil I know.  George Bush in 2004.

I think that's right.  It didn't have to be that way, and in fact, I wrote a piece a while back illustrating what a more trustworthy Kerry might look like.  But, realistically, could a Democratic Party that is now firmly in the grip of the Michael Moore faction nominate someone like that?

I don't think so.  As another blogger wrote in response to my more-responsible-Kerry scenario:

I'd love to see a Democratic candidate genuinely challenge Bush with an alternative vision for the future.  But that's not what Kerry wants: he has no such vision, and even if he did, he'd never have the courage to proclaim it for fear of alienating one slice or another of the precarious jumble of interest groups and activists known as the Democratic Party.  There is only one line on his résumé which appeals to his entire base: the one right at the top, where it says "John Forbes Kerry," and not "George W. Bush."

So, we got feel-good Vietnam stories instead of a plan for Iraq.  (Say the phrase "feel-good Vietnam stories" to yourself a few times and you start to see what a mind-bogglingly, obviously dumb idea that was.)  And knee-jerk criticisms of Bush policies, regardless of whether or not they might actually make sense even in the context of traditional Democratic priorities.

Bush is no prize. But he's the devil we know, and a devil who, for all his flaws, takes seriously the threat facing our nation and appears to be trying to do something about it. With Bush, I expect I will have four more years to quibble with and argue about his tactics in the conduct of this war. With Kerry, once the campaign was over, I fear I'd have a difficult time convincing him there was a war at all.

That's the problem with Kerry, and that's why he deserves to lose.

Guest blogging for Glenn Reynolds this week is 'Just One Minute' blogger Thomas Maguire.

October 28, 2004 | 3:00 PM ET

Chasing the baffled

As the Endless Campaign heads into the final weekend, both sides are rallying their supporters and reaching out to the remaining undecideds, known here as the Terminally Baffled.

Pollsters tell us there are not too many of these folks left, but while channel surfing yesterday I had an opportunity to see a few of these news-recluses flaunt their indecision on
national television.

Some of the questions posed by the moderator were simple enough for even this crowd to come up with an answer.  "Do you think the candidates should be more positive in the final week?"  Golly. Almost every panelist was able to guess the correct response, but one fellow in the back had a gleam in his eye that gave him away - he tuned in to the debates with the view that he would get behind whichever candidate planted his feet and leveled his opponent with a right cross.  Hey, it almost happened in 2000!

And they all wanted to hear more about "the issues." The issues? I have issues with their issues.  One panelist wanted to hear more about John Kerry's plan for energy independence by 2020.  Another wanted to hear more about George Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.  Personally, I would like to hear the candidates pick a side in the old "Seinfeld" discussion about whether the Green Lantern could defeat The Flash.  Given the hostile, balky Congress that will confront the victor, none of these things will ever happen - Congress will not endorse the Flash / Green Lantern showdown, and the other two are fantasy.

But that said, let me toss out two ideas upon which the undecided may reflect. First, a victory for George Bush could transform American politics. No, really. Currently, we are a divided nation, with each party locked in trench warfare trying to assemble a package of personalities and proposals that poll past 50 percent.  Neither party can afford a dramatic reorientation while the other remains unified, because of the risk that their own coalition will simply lose blocs to the other side.

A key source of party unity is possession of the White House. In the last 50 years, the party controlling the White House has always nominated the sitting President or Vice President for the next election.  With a likely successor in sight, and the White House as a prize, one party is generally able to preserve some facade of unity, thereby pressuring the other to do the same.

But is Dick Cheney a plausible successor to Bush in 2008?  With his health problems, no. Which means that, for the first time in 50 years, neither party will be operating under the discipline of an heir apparent.  (Don't say "Hillary", she frightens me).

Add in the emergence of the 527s as a new funding base, and a dramatic realignment of both parties becomes a possibility. Could Joe Lieberman be nominated by his own party?  Might he and John McCain decide to form a new third party?  Might they try to drag either the Democrats or the Republicans into some new centrist territory?  Let's put George Bush in the White House and find out.

Max Sawicky has the opposite view — he thinks that if Kerry is elected, the Progressive democrats will leave the centrists in disgust. I'm a skeptic — they put up with Bill Clinton's NAFTA, free trade, welfare reform, and support for the death penalty. Do not let him mislead you, especially when I am trying to.

A final point that has not have been belabored elsewhere, but which may be the scale-tipper for some undecided somewhere - our next president may not be able to move dramatic legislation through Congress.  However, he really will have to oversee the transformation of the CIA, the FBI, and the U.S. military, all while keeping our nation safe.  Boring Executive Branch stuff, yes, but it has to be done.

And is John Kerry the man to do it?  John Kerry was barely able to manage his own campaign.
George Bush, on the other hand, has a proven ability to make decisions. But don't focus on his decisions!  Focus on the fact that Kerry is a legislator, not an administrator. Under Kerry, these bureaucratic reorganizations will bog down while Kerry does what he considers to be his job - make 300 phone calls a day, consult everyone in the world, and micro-manage everything.

For undecideds, the choice is clear. But neither Reagan nor Clinton is on the ballot, so pick one of these two guys and vote.

Guest blogging for Glenn Reynolds this week is 'Just One Minute' blogger Thomas Maguire.

October 26, 2004 | 2:05 PM ET

Embracing John Kerry
In seven days we will have an election.  If there is a merciful Higher Power, we will also have a winner and a loser.  Although this has been a long and bitterly partisan campaign, it will be important for both sides to reach out to each other in the aftermath.  We don’t know who will win, but it may be worth reflecting on what to do if a non-victorious scenario develops (the word “lose” is banished from the vocabulary until Nov. 3).

As an unrelenting Republican, I have what I hope is helpful advice for folks on my side who may feel a bit lost as they try to come to terms with what might yet become a Kerry Presidency.  Think of this as a little preparation to help ease the shock of transition.

First, the Recovering Republican needs to be able to come to terms with The Other.  Do you have a friend or colleague whose endless praise of Michael Moore has left the two of you estranged?  I recommend being the first to extend the olive branch.  Then, when the other fellow extends his hand in friendship, you have a good, solid object with which to smite him.  Hah!  But that can only provide a fleeting satisfaction.  For the longer term, you must focus on the positives of a Kerry victory.  Let me help you find them.

  1. Kerry didn’t win, Hillary lost!  That’s right.  Hillary’s plans will be on hold until 2012 if Kerry is successful.  True, Recovering Republicans don’t expect Kerry to be successful, but really, what is our track record here – lots of people thought Clinton did fine, right?  Well, lots of other people thought he did fine, anyway.  And you had better be rooting for Kerry to succeed – there is a war on, and failure is not an option.

  2. These times demand the Times, and you can go back to reading it.  Admit it – the Times is a great paper, but it has been so anti-Bush that you can only look at it after you take two aspirin and duct tape your mouth.  Under Kerry, those days will be but a grim memory.  Now, you can smile each morning as the Times tries to undo two years of bias in two months by putting Kerry under the microscope.  Enjoy!

  3. Did we lose the White House?  It’s only a flesh wound!  With a Republican Congress, Kerry can’t do too much harm.  Our hopes are pinned on Frist and DeLay now.  Sorry, I was trying to be upbeat with that – let’s go on.

  4. Relax while someone else tries to spin the latest outrage.  Putting a Democrat in charge might actually make their party take a little bit of responsibility for the events of the day.  This might be bracing for them, and amusing for the rest of us.

The Washington Post has a fair and balanced endorsement of John Kerry.   David Broder highlights the strengths and flaws of each candidate but does not pick one.   Daniel Drezner tilts for Kerry, with reservations; Gregory Djerejian makes the long case for Bush, also with reservations.

The upshot – yes, this election may decide the fate of Western Civilization.  But smart and concerned citizens are finding good reasons to be on either side.  Trust the people to decide.  And remember to exhale.

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