I’d like to share with you a tidbit of my “best-case scenario” prediction made almost a year ago today on this blog, right when the Iraq war had started, and Bush’s approval rating was at 79%. It goes like this:
…we do a thorough sweep of Iraq and come up with absolutely no weapons of mass destruction; Bush and his team are humiliated on the world stage. Americans begin to think he’s a liar. To distract us from this, he tries to enact some draconian conservative agenda (reversing Roe vs. Wade, etc.) to shore up his religious base, but miscalculates dreadfully. Then, one of any roiling scandals (Cheney’s Halliburton, Perle’s defense contractors, etc.) blows open, and a yet-to-be-named Democrat smokes him in a debate so thoroughly that even hard-core Republicans jump ship. Bush gets shellacked in 2004 and we all wake up from a terrible dream.
Now, I’ve made occasionally off-base predictions, but this one stands out as a pretty good one, especially considering how despondent we were (and by “we,” I mean “sensitive, progressive Americans who abhor killing.”) Indeed, we found no WMDs, and Bush was humiliated on the world stage, even if he doesn’t know it yet. I’d like to think that the recent Spanish elections – basically a giant, country-wide FUCK YOU to Bush – might give him a hint, but I doubt he’ll take it.
As for the “draconian conservative agenda,” it wasn’t abortion (yet), it was an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage, and I think this will indeed bear out to be a dreadful miscalculation, regardless of polls. Americans may not be won over en masse to the idea of gay marriage, but they don’t see this as a viable campaign issue, and it makes Bush look like a fucking wacko.
And the “roiling scandals”? As the Jane’s Addiction album title says, “nothing’s shocking,” and the Repubs may well be scandal-proof. But there is enough bullshit going on with Halliburton and an as-yet-to-be-broken story to give conservatives nightmares come late summer.
The debates? John Kerry has asked Bush for monthly tete-a-tetes, and if W knows what’s good for him, he’ll fake a slipped disk like Duke University’s Koach K did. Kerry will eat him alive, because it won’t be enough for Bush to “survive deeply low expectations” (which is how he got past Al Gore in their debates).
I have not let myself get excited about the upcoming presidential election because I still feel like Americans are a profoundly stupid bunch of people when they get together, and I have zero faith in them doing the right thing. But one piece of information has given me a glimmer of hope, as weird as it sounds: the Martha Stewart verdict.
That jury wasn’t convicting Martha, they were lashing out at institutions that LIE. The Era of Lying began with Clinton, but people were willing to put up with it because they were making money. It’s hard to remember how much antipathy there was toward Clinton by 2000, even from liberals (mostly because we’re so desperate for someone like him now), but the lying extended to the smearing of Al Gore, who was painted as an “exaggerator” by Bush and the right-leaning media (which, in itself, was a lie).
The lying continued with Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Adelphia and everyone else. The lying reached a fever pitch with Bush’s mention of Niger and uranium. By the end of 2003, pundits were calling it The Year of the Lie.
Now, lying is not something that can be sustained long-term. Pretty soon, people need something to hang their hat on, they need to know something is true. This Martha Stewart verdict was a way to say that people have fucking had enough of lying.
This bodes well for the Democrats, as long as they can continue to work Bush’s “credibility gap,” which is the nicest way of saying “he’s a goddamn liar” I’ve ever heard. Kerry, unfortunately, has the reputation of being a flip-flopper, but a lack of conviction is way better than being a liar.
Do Americans think Bush is a liar? Sadly, not yet. They think he is perhaps “poorly handled,” or “gets bad information from his team” or even that he’s too simple a man to contemplate lying. When the American people really find out what this man is capable of, the mask will drop and shatter, and they will see him for what he is. If the Democrats start working on this, we will all wake up from the nightmare, like I promised a year ago.