It's Foreign Policy, Stupid: Bush's First Elected Term Won Because Of The War He Helped Start During Term He Stole: Historical Pattern Broken
Presidential elections are about foreign policy. There is only one commander-in-chief. All the domestic issues can be finessed in the congress. The first Bush lost to Clinton, not only because of the economy, stupid, but because of the Gulf War. But by the time the 1992 election came around, the war to keep Kuwait free from Iraq had been "won."
Sylvan Shalom, the Israeli Foreign Minister, on the day after the election said it was a good thing that Bush won because a loss "would have been interpreted as a victory for the terrorists." That, in essence, is the reason Bush beat Kerry. This has happened before.
Another president hated almost as much as George W. Bush was another son of a patrician family who was accused of abandoning his roots, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Elected in 1932 during the Great Depression, and re-elected in 1936 by the biggest landslide in modern times, FDR was looking to break the iron clad two term limit set down by the founding father, George Washington. The idea that a president could serve three terms aroused the same fury among the Roosevelt haters as the first stolen term of George W. Bush aroused among Gore's supporters. Yet, with a Civil War raging in Spain, and as the start of the general European War in September, 1939 began to dominate the headlines, there increasingly seemed to be no alternative to Roosevelt in either party.
The Democrats' national convention in Chicago took place in mid-July, on the heels of France's stunning fall to Germany the previous month. Although Roosevelt sent a message to the convention saying he did not desire to run for re-election, in the absence of any successor, he was "drafted" for a third term.
Bush's election also breaks a historical pattern. No president who has ever been selected without winning the popular vote has ever achieved a second term. Just as the Second World War enabled Franklin Roosevelt to break the tradition of the two term limit, so that it was written into the Constitution as an Amendment; so, too, has the 2004 election broken an historical pattern.
The danger is now that all succeeding presidents will be tempted to start wars in order to guarantee their own re-election. This has been a really catastrophic election for the United States.
In 1956, just before the presidential election for Eisenhower's second term, the British, French and Israelis manufactured a pretext for invading Egypt to try and topple President Gamal Abdel Nasser in exactly the same way as the United States invaded Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein. In that case, the United States did not support its allies in their neo-colonial adventure. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union crushed the democratic Hungarian Revolution. Eisenhower's incompetence in foreign policy seemed overwhelming. Yet, Adlai Stevenson, Ike's opponent, was soundly trounced on Election Day: 57% to 42% and 457 to 73 to 1 in the Electoral College.
Confirmation In The Senate
The fact that Bush's election was caused by the war is confirmed in the United States Senate by the defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. In 1940, Ernest W. McFarland, a Democrat from Arizona, was elected to the Senate. He rose to become Senate Majority Leader. In the 1952 election, McFarland lost his seat to Republican Barry Goldwater, and the Democrats lost control of the Senate. This was during the Korean War. No Senate party leader has been defeated at the polls in the past 52 years. War effects, not only the election of the Commander-in-Chief, but the Senate which has a constitutional responsibility to share in the foreign policy formulation of the government. It is the senate that must confirm the appointment of cabinet officials like Secretary of State and some military officers.
The Troops in Iraq
Further confirmation of the war based reason for Bush's victory comes from the troops in Iraq. In an article in the Financial Times called, "Mortars and rain take priority for troops in Iraq," it says: "Under guidelines from the Pentagon, soldiers are not allowed to share their political views with journalists. However, some agreed to discuss politics on condition of anonymity.
"'I'm sure Bush will win. I voted for him. If he brought us here then he should be the one to take us out,' said another First Cavalry soldier."
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf