My friend, the non-rabbinical Cohen, a Democrat by choice and a realist by nature, sometimes sees the looming side of things. When the sun is out, Cohen knows it won’t last. Thus, no matter if the polls say there’s a tsunami coming on Tuesday, it will be no surprise to Cohen that the Democrats find a way to snatch defeat from victory. “What do they stand for?” Cohen cries, “Just that they’re not George Bush!”
As usual, Cohen is at least half right. There is no coherent Democratic Party message in this campaign cycle. This is not like 1994 when the GOP nationalized the first Clinton midterm with their Contract With America, expelling the Democrats from control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
Nor is it like 1974, when Republicans were ousted in large numbers as a way to bring closure to the Watergate scandal. To be sure, corruption is an issue this year in the handful of GOP congressmen indicted, jailed or resigned in disgrace. But it is not the issue. Bush proclaims the economy, soaring, he says, because of his tax cuts. But the average American family feels more uncertainty from the collapse of the housing market and a decade of depressed wages than it gets confidence from the rising stock market.
Karl Rove predicted that George W. Bush would cement a Republican majority that could govern Washington for decades. Tuesday will put an end to that idea. The election mainly will be driven by two things: the war in Iraq and the unpopularity of George W. Bush. Even as Republican candidates all over the country try to put some distance between themselves and the president, Bush stridently proclaims, “We will fight in Iraq and we will win in Iraq.” He attacks the Democrats more forcefully each day. GOP strategists may recognize the war as a lethal issue, but the president thinks it rallies his base. Thus, he goes out of his way to announce that his twin lieutenants responsible for the disaster in Iraq, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, will be staying for the duration of his administration.
As the bad news from Baghdad rolls in, some see a wave building that the levees can’t hold. But not my pal Cohen. If he never gets his hopes up, he can always say, “See, I told you so!” As if to confirm these dark fears, the heavens sent Cohen a special present this week: Sen. John Kerry.
Two years ago, Rove cleverly laid a trap for Kerry, planting the question, midcampaign: “If you knew everything you know now about Iraq (no WMDs, no al-Qaida connection) would you still have voted for the war? Astonishingly, Kerry said yes. Back on the campaign trail this year, Kerry needed no help from Rove. He lassoed himself. At a rally in California, the senator remarked to a group of students, “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make and effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
President Bush leaped on that like a hound on a lamb chop. “The senator’s suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful,” said Bush, correctly. The final days of this campaign may be remembered not so much for the North Koreans exploding a nuclear bomb or Congressman Mark Foley trolling for teenage pages on his office computer. It will be remembered for what John Kerry claims was intended to be a joke. Kerry’s gaffe led the network news, and on his radio show Don Imus told the senator to go home, go to bed and stay out of sight. If Kerry is still harboring ideas of running for president again in 2008, he should fold the tent on that idea right now.
My own vote will be to end the curious career of John Hostettler, the congressman who attempted to carry a loaded automatic revolver through airport security. Trigger John claimed he needs the gun to travel safely around the 8th District. But it will be an unenthusiastic vote for the semi-Democrat, Brad Ellsworth. If Ellsworth wins, he’ll be washed in on the anti-Bush, anti-Iraq wave. However, one thing the handsome but hopeless candidate will not tell voters before Election Day is whether he would vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.