With one phrase Dick Gephardt has defined the issue to be decided next November. Can a "miserable failure" of a president win re-election? Bush's victory would testify to a civic failure more dangerous to the American future than any policies implemented or continued during a second Bush term. A majority would have demonstrated that democratic accountability is finished. That you can fail in everything and still be re-elected president.
You can preside over the most catastrophic failure of intelligence and national defense in history. Can fire no one associated with this fatal chain of blunders and bureaucratic buck-passing. Can oppose an inquest into September 11 for more than a year until pressure from the relatives of those killed on that day becomes politically toxic. Can name Henry Kissinger, that mortician of truth, to head the independent commission you finally accede to. You can start an unnecessary war that kills hundreds of Americans and as many as 7,000 Iraqi civilians—adjusted for the difference in population, the equivalent of 80,000 Americans. Can occupy Iraq without a plan to restore traffic lights, much less order. Can make American soldiers targets in a war of attrition conducted by snipers, assassins, and planters of remote-control bombs—and taunt the murderers of our young men to "bring it on." Can spend hundreds of billions of dollars on nation building—and pass the bill to America's children. (Asked to consider rescinding your tax cut for the top one percent of taxpayers for one year in order to fund the $87 billion you requested from Congress to pay for the occupation of Iraq, your Vice President said no; that would slow growth.) You can lose more jobs than any other President since Hoover. You can cut cops and after-school programs and Pell Grants and housing allowances for the poor to give tax cuts to millionaires. You can wreck the nation's finances, running up the largest deficit in history. You can permit 17,000 power plants to increase their health-endangering pollution of the air. You can lower the prestige of the United States in every country of the world by your unilateral conduct of foreign policy and puerile "you're either with us or against us" rhetoric. Above all, you can lie the country into war and your lies can be exposed—and, if a majority prefers ignorance to civic responsibility, you can still be reelected.