Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: But if Bush Loses?
In our memo yesterday, we noted the New York Times “Week in Review” article that asked what the Democrats would do if Kerry, who they had thought would be an easy winner, loses? On the same page, Elizabeth Bumiller wondered what would happen to the G.O.P. if voters send President Bush back to Crawford next Tuesday:
Republicans don’t want to talk about it, but the question is already an awful thought not so far back in their minds: What happens to the G.O.P. if President Bush loses on Nov. 2?… [O]n the central question of whether a loss would shift the party more to the center, Republicans say no. Yes, there would be a huge fight over Iraq. Yes, there would be bigger fault lines between the tax-cutters and the deficit hawks. And the party would experience a massive depression as it picked itself up from the loss. But Republicans say that a defeat would not usher in a moderate new era.
Okay, I more or less agree with that assessment, although I don’t think there will be a massive depression in the G.O.P. The rank-and-file especially know that if Iraq had been a cakewalk and Osama bin Laden bagged along with Saddam, the President would be planning his second inaugural. As nervous as Wall Street has been lately over what $55 oil might do to the economy and corporate earnings, the race is still neck-and-neck. If Iraq had turned out as the neo-con war architects had believed, the Middle East would be a quieter place, oil would be $20 lower, the Dow a thousand points higher, and re-election would be a cakewalk.
In other words, the electorate is trying to tell the Democrats that while it may give Kerry the White House, it would not be to retreat on the Reagan Revolution. The Times article got just the right fellow to buttress that argument:
[A]rguments over Iraq would not fundamentally change the party, Republicans insisted. “Bush lost because of Iraq – O.K., but that doesn’t suggest a change in policy because Iraq was not central to any part of the Republican party or its philosophy,” said Grover Norquist, a leading conservative and the President of Americans for Tax Reform. “It was a judgment call. It may have been a good idea, it may have been a bad idea. So the Republican party will decide not to do more Iraqs. If you weren’t the president, you weren’t doing Iraqs anyway. The party will continue to be anti-tax and push for more. We will still be the deregulation party and the free-trade party.
Norquist is an old-line conservative, though, not a neo-conservative, and he was not involved in the “judgment call” on Iraq that he correctly notes was not part of Republican philosophy. When he says the G.O.P. will decide not to do more Iraqs,” you can see he is already prepared to cut loose from the neo-cons who have interrupted what he believed would be a second wave of the Reagan Revolution. And what about those neo-cons if Bush indeed loses? Elizabeth Bumiller again puts her finger on the right fellow:
Republicans agreed that Iraq would be the major post-election fight should Mr. Bush lose, with the neo-conservatives who pushed for the invasion as prime targets. “There will be firing squads and an attempted purge,” said William Kristol, the editor of the conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard and a longtime advocate of the war. “We’ll fight back. It’ll be fun.”
Kristol and the rest of the Richard Perle’s Cabal of course have no intention of apologizing for the judgment call, which also seemed to be a lot of fun for them at the time they talked Mr. Bush into making it. They will retreat to their periodicals, editorial pages, and think tanks only to plan for 2008, and the next “Iraq.” They are armchair warriors, after all, and warriors need wars to plan for and to fight, or they will go soft. With a President Kerry in the White House, it will only be that much more of a challenge to goad him into being tougher, no matter how tough he is, to show he is not a weak-kneed anti-war weenie. It will be more of a challenge, though, because conservatives like Grover Norquist who went along with the war because it’s what the President wanted will not wish to be fooled a second time.
Then again, maybe the President will win re-election. Maybe Iraq wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Hmmm.