For those who don’t know, The Post’s David Broder is a calm old head and all-around-wiseman in print journalism. When he says something, and I’ll confess I don’t agree with him all the time, it’s usually worth taking extremely seriously. Otherwise he wouldn’t be saying it.
The factors that make President Bush a vulnerable incumbent have almost nothing to do with his opponent, John F. Kerry. They stem directly from two closely linked, high-stakes policy gambles that Bush chose on his own. Neither has worked out as he hoped.
The first gamble was the decision to attack Iraq; the second, to avoid paying for the war. The rationale for the first decision was to remove the threat of a hostile dictator armed with weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never found. The rationale for the second decision – the determination to keep cutting taxes in the face of far higher spending for Iraq and the war on terrorism – was to stimulate the American economy and end the drought of jobs. The deficits have accumulated, but the jobs have still not come back.
If Bush can win reelection despite the failure of his two most consequential – and truly radical – decisions, he will truly be a political miracle man. But as his own nominating convention approaches, the odds are against him.