Trifecta Plus: So--who wants to challenge the first Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower to be backed by a united Congress? France? Russia? China? Nobody? The Guardian was reporting last night that opposition in the Security Council to the American and British resolution on Iraq has collapsed. The new resolution calls for Iraq to provide "full and complete" accounts of its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons stocks within 30 days. Any falsehood or omission would be a "material breach" of Iraq's obligations under Article VII of the U.N. Charter. It's probably not yet true that war with Iraq is certain, but by now nothing much short of unconditional Iraqi surrender of its deadly weapons will avoid it.
I saw the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon lamenting the lack of a debate on Iraq. I don't know how she can say that. President Bush has made his and the Republican party's position on Iraq almost provocatively clear. As for the Democrats, over the past six weeks we have heard from former presidential nominee Al Gore, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and even former vice president Walter Mondale. All opposed military action in Iraq. So did a majority of the Democrats in both houses of Congress. It's hard to get a starker partisan choice than that.
Why the Republicans Won — Part 1: Laura Ingraham asked the question of the day yesterday on NRO: "When will the Dems understand that character matters?" When indeed? If the final Senate tally turns out to be 51-48-1, Republicans will owe that 51st seat to character--specifically to Norman Coleman's character. Did you see his acceptance speech in the rotunda of the Minnesota statehouse yesterday? It was lovely. Coleman told his audience of a custom at Jewish weddings: to smash a glass to remember that grief too is part of life. So too, Coleman said, he felt grief for Wellstone even at this joyous moment of victory. Nicely said and apparently sincerely meant. (Coleman by the way will be Minnesota's third Jewish senator, after Rudy Boschwitz, and Paul Wellstone.)
Throughout the final week of that campaign, Coleman said and did the right thing while his opponents said and did the wrong thing. Coleman exercised restraint and dignty after Wellstone's death. Wellstone's supporters used the death as an opportunity for rock 'n' roll politics. Coleman was respectful and polite during his debate with Walter Mondale; Mondale was startlingly accusatory and personal. These things count in Minnesota; they count everywhere.
Why the Republicans Won — Part 2: Even Democrats are now admitting they had a lousy message on the economy. It cannot have helped that their message had to compete with all those advertisements on television urging consumers to refinance their mortgages at rates of barely more than 6%. Or that the stock market actually posted a pretty good month in October.
One of the awkward rules of punditry and especially television punditry is this: You are never allowed to say, "Actually, this recession is not that bad. Who wants to sound unconcerned? Who wants to take the risk that the host might cut away to some poor soul who has just lost his job, his house, and his retirement savings. Nonetheless: this recession is not that bad. Unemployment for example may have risen to almost 6%. That's not as good as the 4% of the 1990s. But it's still no worse than it was in 1984, when it was morning in America. The stock market has slumped--but most Americans are nevertheless richer today than they were a decade ago. The important question for voters is, what's coming tomorrow? And who really doubts that this recession will be short--and that President Bush's tax cut helped shorten it?
Why the Republicans Won — Part 3: Still no exit polls, so we can't yet identify the segment of the electorate to whom the Republicans owe their great triumph. But who will be surprised if it turns out that one more time the loyal core of the GOP prove to be regular church attenders: the much-dreaded Christian Right? The same Christian Right that is always supposedly about to drag the Republican party down to ignominy and defeat? The Republican party posted its two biggest upsets of the night in the state of Georgia. And of course the new chairman of the Georgia GOP is Ralph Reed, one-time executive director of the Christian Coalition. Will THIS finally persuade the New York Times' Washington bureau that it's not political suicide to appeal to religious voters in the world's most religious country?
Why the Democrats Lost — Part 1: A friend of mine back in Canada has a theory that every election campaign has a secret slogan as well as the public slogans it puts on its billboards and television commercials. He once explained the spectacular defeat of a candidate he worked for by explaining that the candidate's secret slogan was: "Higher taxes for a French Ontario," Ontario being a province distinctly unenthusiastic about Canada's French fact.
As the Democrats bottled up the Homeland Security bill because they objected to the president's request for authority to fire incompetent baggage screeners, it occurred to me that their secret slogan in 2002 was turning out to be: "Unions first, homeland security second." Hmm, I thought--that's not good. And it wasn't.
Why the Democrats Lost — Part 2: Like a good samurai, Minority Leader Gephardt has accepted the blame for his party's defeat. More plausible targets for Democratic recriminations, though, would be Rep. Jim McDermott and former Rep. David Bonior--the two congressmen who traveled to Baghdad on the eve of war to stand with Saddam Hussein and denounce their president. Today's Democratic party has come a long way since the bad days of the 1970s and 1980s--and in one photo op, McDermott and Bonior managed to throw away a decade of efforts to prove that maybe Democrats can be trusted with the nation's security after all.