July 10, 2007
A No-Win Situation (Bob Franken)
@ 11:23 am
We have one word for you, say the pollsters, when people are asked to describe the George W. Bush presidency: “Incompetent.” And there is nothing more damning than that.
Forget, for the moment, whether the United States should have gotten into this shooting war in Iraq. The widespread feeling is that his administration is “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” … bumblers who were adept at only one skill: Getting reelected.
So what does that say about the Democrats? Actually, I think it says a lot about high-level politics, and this is seriously going to antagonize all those slick consultants and pollsters whose greatest skill is really self-promotion: These days, national elections are not won, they are lost.
Take a look at the last four presidents. While it is true that Ronald Reagan had tremendous personal appeal, honed after decades in Hollywood, he ran against a couple of political stumble-bums, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale. Both are really nice guys, but LOUSY candidates.
George the Elder? The Democrats are still trying making alibis for their 1988 choice of Michael “Tank” Dukakis.
Then there’s Bill Clinton, who went from Arkansas Traveler to political legend. Some legend. Clinton the First had the incredible good fortune to have Bush the First as an incumbent who had frittered away astounding popularity by displaying his miserable shopping skills and total ignorance about the economic problems of everyday life.
The second time, he had Bob Dole — a wonderful man and master of the Senate. But the Senate has no resemblance whatsoever to real life. So score a second term for Bill Clinton.
And here we are with this George Bush, elected and then reelected. To make my point, I offer five words: Al Gore and John Kerry. One of them actually won; his lawyers blew that one. The other came close. Remember, we’re talking about two of history’s stiffest politicians.
All of this brings us to this dirty little secret: In the world of politics, if we’re going to use the word “incompetent,” let’s not just limit it to the Bush administration.