The Man Who Wasn't There


My take on the person who has been at the center of this election season, even if he has scarcely been mentioned:

McCain's brave criticism of Donald Rumsfeld and the occupation nonstrategy in 2004 led to the surge; and the surge’s surprising tactical success in bringing a raging civil war down to 2005 levels of murderousness has enabled him to gain just enough credibility to run a national security campaign against the Democrats.

And so he manages both to rebuke Bush while rescuing his most troubled legacy. I’m sceptical he can do it if he gets elected. But his is the only position on the war that both pleases the Republican base and retains even a semblance of credibility among the public at large. For good measure, he opposes the torture policy that many conservatives privately feel ashamed about.

Bush is the reason, in other words, that this unlikely maverick has become the Republican nominee. And Bush is also the reason, I would argue, that Hillary Clinton’s meticulously planned coronation as the next Democratic nominee came unstuck.

It came unstuck because the depth of the Democrats’ disgust with Bush required more than just partisan revenge. And in the glare of the campaign, the Clintons began to represent for many Democrats the kind of politics that Bush himself had mastered.

(Photo: Jim Watson/Getty.)