The presidential campaign had hardly ended before the sounds of shocked outrage and the gnashing of teeth was heard across the globe:
"How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?" wailed the Daily Mirror.
“This is not going to make the relationship on the two sides of the Atlantic any easier,” averred Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States.
“We didn’t want Bush," said Amar Hassan Fayad, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. "Kerry could have made a fresh start. His mission wouldn’t have been as complicated as Bush’s.”
"Never in the course of human history has such an inspiring election produced such a depressing result," moaned Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian.
On the home front, the mood was even darker. The knowing smirk on Jon Stewart’s face was nowhere to be seen on election night, although it will doubtless make a return appearance all too soon. (Hey, it’s a living). New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s lamentation typified the mindset of the post-Kerry Latte Liberal:
"What troubled me yesterday was my feeling that this election was tipped because of an outpouring of support for George Bush by people who don’t just favor different policies than I do – they favor a whole different kind of America. We don’t just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is."
Maureen Dowd cites a "Bush insider" who says:
"’He’ll be a lot more aggressive in Iraq now. He’ll raze Falluja if he has to. He feels that the election results endorsed his version of the war.’ Never mind that the more insurgents American troops kill, the more they create."
This last possibility – nay, near certainty – is cause for grave concern. While the Latte Liberals are sitting around the café lamenting their beleaguered status as internal exiles, the "liberated" peoples of Iraq will bear the full brunt of the election results. We will "feel their pain," so to speak, from a safe distance.
Not that John Kerry would have given them a moment’s respite from American state terrorism. How long, one wonders, before the Latte Liberals stop blaming the American people for being too dim to embrace Kerry as their savior and start reexamining what was possibly, if not the worst, then certainly the most passive political campaign in American history?
Remember the Democratic convention – where antiwar signage and sentiment was verboten? – that cravenly sought to mimic Republican militarism? Boston signaled the death wish of the Democrats: after all, why vote for Bush Lite, when the real deal is already in office?
When Bush’s minions defamed Kerry’s military record, smeared his supporters, and implied that a Kerry victory would be followed shortly afterward by the nuking of major American cities, the Democratic candidate … did nothing. Better to lose the election than that the word "chickenhawk" should ever pass the lips of a Boston Brahmin.
As Kerry sunk in the polls, and the possibility that he was deliberately throwing the election to the Republicans began to be bruited about, somebody must have woken up over at Democratic party headquarters, because – in a complete reversal – Kerry began pounding away at the president’s conduct of the Iraq war. Not that he came out in opposition, yet, as I have pointed out before, he appropriated antiwar arguments in the final weeks of the campaign – and immediately began surging in the polls.
But it was too late, and, aside from that, the Republicans had a superior organization, fueled by the zeal of Christian fundamentalists who believe the president’s policies are a divine writ from God. What sort of emotional-ideological fuel fired the Democratic machine – hatred of Bush? Whatever it was, it wasn’t a love of Kerry’s fabled nuances, and – more importantly – it wasn’t enough.
Aside from Kerry’s known limitations, however, I would urge the dejected to put their present travails in historical perspective. On November 11, 1972, Richard Nixon was reelected in what was truly a mandate for his monstrous foreign policy: it was one of the largest landslides in the history of American politics. Nixon crushed the Democratic nominee, Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, taking more than 60 percent of the vote.
A few months later, Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr. were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident. By April, the Nixon White House was in disarray, as the Watergate conspirators scrambled in a vain attempt to cover up the cover-up. Senate hearings on the matter were convened in May. That summer, John Dean spilled his guts to Watergate investigators, who uncovered more incriminating evidence of illegal White House activities. October’s Saturday Night Massacre sounded the death knell of Nixon’s presidency, ensuring that, no matter what the ultimate outcome – impeachment or resignation – the 36th President of the United States would go down in the history books as a discredited and pathetic failure. A year after pulverizing the McGovernites – who, unlike the Kerry-ites, really were opponents of global interventionism – Nixon was whining "I am not a crook!"
While history never repeats itself in quite the same way, the possibility that Bush could wind up disgraced looms larger today than it did for Nixon in the winter of 1972. Back then, the Watergate burglars were still being depicted as a "rogue" operation, and no one believed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who doggedly uncovered the crimes that eventually brought down a president. Similar scandals are simmering on the back burner at the Bush White House: at least three, at last count. Any one of them could lead to big trouble for this administration, which had better start battening down the hatches just as soon as the last of the champagne is poured.
While the issue has largely been lost sight of on account of special prosecutor Patrick J. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald‘s bulldoggish tactics – threatening to jail reporters for refusing to divulge their sources – his probe into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by Washington neocons eager to discredit her husband, diplomat Joseph C. Wilson, is likely to reach into the vice president’s office – and, from there, insinuate its way into the White House. It’s the cover-up, not the crime, that gets them every time…
A related investigation into the basis of the infamous "16 words" of the president’s 2002 State of the Union address is also percolating, and this should be even more interesting – and potentially damaging to the administration. Because this probes into the question of how so much blatantly false information made its way into the White House and onto the president’s desk – including an outright forgery that was so crude it took the IAEA’s scientists a matter of minutes with Google to debunk it.
Yet another looming legal case is the upcoming trial of neocon ideologue Larry Franklin, a specialist on Iran working in Douglas Feith‘s Pentagon policy shop, who was caught red-handed turning over highly sensitive top secret documents to two Israeli government officials and two top employees of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group. In a fascinating piece on the sociology of the neoconservative movement, social anthropologist Janine R. Wedel characterizes them as an "informal" faction:
"I call these exclusive, informal factions ‘flex groups,’ for their ease in playing multiple and overlapping roles and conflating state and private interests. These players keep appearing in different incarnations, ensuring continuity even as their operating environments change."
In light of the Franklin case, however, the covert activities of the neoconservative "flex group" in the Pentagon appear to serve a purpose greater than mere mutual self-promotion. Rather than just furthering the interests of the individuals involved, clearly the idea is to promote the goals of a foreign power, namely Israel – the chief beneficiary, aside from Iran, of our post-9/11 foreign policy, and which clearly had an interest in rushing us to war. Now that Tehran is in Israel’s sights – along with Syria and Lebanon – the same "flex group" is flexing its muscles and getting ready for action in Bush’s second term. But there’s nothing like a charge of espionage to put a crimp in the activities of even the most dedicated and energetic fifth column.
So, cheer up, all you disillusioned and depressed lefties and assorted liberals, who were (naively, in my view) counting on the deus ex machina of a Kerry victory to pull us out of the Iraqi quagmire. As an unreconstructed reactionary of the "isolationist" (i.e., anti-imperialist) Old Right, I can rightly claim to have never been taken in by this dubious panacea. In the interest of good taste, however, I’ll refrain from any further displays of unseemly gloating, and merely remind my readers that they were warned: "It’s Bush by a relatively substantial margin in the popular vote," I wrote in the "Notes in the Margin" section of this column the day before the election, and so it was.
Aside from confirming my predictive prowess – I meant relatively substantial compared to the 2000 contest – the Bush victory signifies much less than is readily apparent. Yes, it’s one giant step backward, but the antiwar forces can confidently look forward to taking two or even three quite substantial steps forward in the months to come. While the public now knows that there were no "weapons of mass destruction," no lraqi links to 9/11, and no real threat to the U.S. posed by Saddam, the whole story of this administration’s unparalleled mendacity has yet to be fully revealed. Bush’s Watergate is bubbling up to the surface. The built-up pressure of months of investigations – years, in the case of the Israeli spy ring – is threatening to explode the deepest darkest secrets of the Bush White House onto the front pages. Now that Franklin has engaged Plato Cacheris, who first rocketed to fame as Attorney General John Mitchell’s co-counsel in the Watergate case, the stage is set for a series of courtroom dramas – and possibly congressional hearings – that will not only tear the mask off the War Party but could discredit it for a good many years to come.
Screw John Kerry. We have just begun to fight.