First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Leadership and the Elections of 2002
It's sad to watch President Bush step back from the leadership he exercised for so many months.
His speech before the U.N. was what America needed. Making our case before the world.
But now we're floating a resolution that amounts to a "Munich move." To ask for one more agreement with Saddam -- who has yet to keep a single agreement. To try one more time to put inspectors in Iraq -- even though inspectors have never been allowed to do their job in the past.
Anything to avoid war. Anything to get our "allies" to act in concert with us.
President Bush has been told he has to have international cooperation. Why? Because polls show that the American people only favor going to war with Iraq "if we have allies."
Polls. That's the way Clinton governed. Doesn't President Bush know -- hasn't someone told him -- that bold action in a right cause rallies support? That if he had simply set a deadline for our "allies" and "friends" and said, "By this date you are either with us or not," the American people would have supported him?
Firm action inspires loyalty. Waffling evaporates it. And what's going on now looks like waffling.
Oddly enough, the Democrats in Congress finally won everything they wanted in their effort to politically eviscerate President Bush -- by giving in.
When Daschle gave way on the war resolution, he stopped making the Democrats look like the party of timidity and weakness. And yet his campaign did have one success. He somehow, without a shred of reason on his side, persuaded the American people to give those poll answers about how we should only go to war if we have international support.
And because President Bush fears polls (which is different from Clinton's worship of them), he allowed the polls to turn him from the course.
And the result is that President Bush is heading into the elections looking, not strong, but weak. While the Democrats can get back to the sticks they regularly use to beat Republicans -- primarily the "bad" economy.
Remember 1992? Everyone admits -- now -- that all the important indicators showed that the recession was over, many months before the election. But the press kept running stories about how "maybe things are getting better, but look how people are still suffering." And President Bush lost because, even though the economy was doing well again, the American people had been persuaded not to believe it. Our punishment: Clinton.
Now here we are in 2002. We did have a mild recession -- one that began before President Bush took office, and the recession is over -- but you'd never know that from what Democrats and the media are saying.
All the favorable news is reported, as in 1992, with a "but" at the end. Yes, these indicators are good, but look at how bad this other indicator still is. And with the war off the table, Americans won't be voting to give President Bush the Congress that he needs to make the world safe from nukes and plagues in the hands of madmen.
Instead, Americans will be voting in response to the worldview presented to them by people who have an intense desire to make the economy look very bad indeed, so that we'll vote against the party in the White House.
Add to that the racist campaigns that Democrats now use as a matter of course -- lying to African-Americans about Republican intentions and claiming that any of them who might vote for a Republican is being disloyal to his or her race -- and it looks pretty bad for the Republicans.
Which, in normal times, wouldn't matter much. Republicans bring their own forms of madness to Congress and, by and large, most Congresspersons seem to be appallingly ignorant and/or self-serving. No party has a monopoly on that.
But we are in a war, whether we want to be or not. The decisions we're making now are not about whether or not to go to war. They're about whether to fight at relatively low cost and with relative certainty we'd win, or to wait until later, when it can only be won after devastating losses and without any assurance of victory.
For various reasons, the national Democratic Party, despite the many good things it stands for, is at this moment the party of appeasement and isolation, masquerading as the party of "peace."
The simple truth is we can't have peace. Our enemies made that clear on September 11th of last year.
All that we are able to decide right now is where and when and how to fight the war that has been forced upon us -- not whether to fight it.
And when we vote this November, as a nation, it's a referendum on the war whether we want it to be or not.
Because, while our vote will have no effect whatsoever on the economy (it works the other way around), it will have an enormous effect on the outcome of our war against terror and the nations that sponsor it.
What we're deciding is whether we have the will to use force to defend ourselves, or whether we prefer to pretend that everything's all right until the barbarians have blown up our cities or poisoned us or stricken us with plague.
This time, if we wait for proof, we will have waited too long. There will be no comfortable cushion, no six months or a year to gear ourselves up for war. If we don't fight now, then when we do fight we will not have anywhere near the strength.
As for President Bush -- he can't win. If he goes ahead with war with Iraq, many will condemn him -- and since most historians are liberals who subscribe to the nonsense passing for intellectual consensus these days, he will probably live out the rest of his life hearing his name excoriated as a warmonger and baby-killer.
And if he doesn't go ahead ...
Ah, that is the nightmare.
Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.
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