Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 26, 2004
POLITICS: The Stakes
First, we will reject the notion that America can do big things.
Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal to future presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle difficult challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity that has characterized other civilizations. The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to future presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular decisions. America has always been a nation that rises to the demands of history regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away from that legacy, we turn away from who we are.
Second, we inform every terrorist organization on the globe that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In Somalia we showed terrorists that you don't need to defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded America can become a defeated America.
Twenty-four-hour news stations and daily tracking polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut into a fatal blow. Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10. The election of John Kerry will serve notice to every terrorist in every cave that the soft underbelly of American power is the timidity of American voters. Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grizzly [sic] photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the American people. Our own self-doubt will take it from there. Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any American administration without setting foot on the homeland.
Read the whole thing. Jay Nordlinger makes the same point:
In my view, this election is not a contest to determine how we'll fight the War on Terror; it's a contest to determine whether we will fight it at all. And the decision made by the Americans will be fateful.
George W. Bush and his people think that our security requires wholesale changes in the Muslim world — changes that we must abet. The other side — which includes a portion of the Right — believes that we can just hunker down, lashing out when some occasion demands. And if only Israel weren't so damn troublesome, perhaps the Arabs would be calmer.
I have never liked the terms "pro-war" and "anti-war," certainly the former. None of us is pro-war. It's just that some of us think that it's necessary to wage, while others do not. The Bush side thinks the war is a matter of self-defense; the other side thinks it's a matter of belligerence, or arrogance, or utopianism, or servitude to "Sharon," or something else bad.
As I have said before, I wish this election weren't so important. But I'm afraid it is. If the Americans elected John Kerry in, oh, 1992 or 1996, that would be one thing. If they elect him in 2004 — that will tell us something disheartening.
A little story: Some time ago, England had what was called "the Metric Martyr." This was a fellow — a grocer or a butcher, I forget which — who sold his goods in imperial measures: pounds, ounces, etc. But because England is now beholden to Brussels, he was prosecuted for not using the metric system (hence, Metric Martyr).
I asked our senior editor David Pryce-Jones (a Brit), "How could the British people permit this? I mean, it's their system — the imperial system, or the English system — to begin with." David answered, "The British people wouldn't permit it. The question is whether they remain the British people."
(Nordlinger has some other godd stuff, including this gem from a reader: "Did you see that Fidel Castro took a fall? I wonder if Jimmy Carter broke his nose.")
Roger Simon has a related point about how the anti-Israel, anti-democracy pro-status-quo "Arabists" have found their home in Kerry's Democratic apparatus, as evidenced by Kerry's top foreign policy adviser, Richard Holbrooke, specifying that a Kerry administration would put the screws on three countries in the region: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Krauthammer, if you missed his latest must-read column, explains how and why Kerry would sell out Israel, which remains our most unpopular ally among the Europeans, the UN, the Arab dictators and others whom Kerry feels the need to please.
Call me naive, but I still have more faith in the voters than that. But I remain worried that the election will be close enough to be swayed by fraud and litigation, and that's bad news for Bush - and for the nation.