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Friday, April 11, 2003

War and Politics-Ben Domenech notes that Bob Graham seems to be finished as a presidential candidate. With the war a success, a strategy of criticizing the administration for mismanagement of the Defense Department won't work well. The big question on Democrats and Iraq is whether they ignore the issue as a loser and move on. If they do move on, will the move towards ignoring/downplaying foreign policy as their weak spot and focus on domestic matters or try to make a play for a more pro-UN pro-EU "multilateral" approach. The later might win votes in the primary while the former would be better general election strategy. Disadvantage Kerry, advantage Lieberman. Democrats in 2004 will want the American public to ignore Iraq and focus on whatever economic shortcomings they choose to highlight. They have some hope in that Bush 41 was achieving escape velocity in the polls in early 1991 and was home in Houston in early 1993. Will Dubya meet the same fate? Unlikely. The first Gulf War was only a partial success; by sticking to the UN mandate, we merely got Iraq out of Kuwait and had Saddam playing with ceasefire agreements for the next dozen years, including the year-and-a-half leading up to the 1992 election. A recession in 1991-92 allowed Clinton to run on domestic politics and make the Iraq success of the year before moot. If the early reports of chemical and nuclear weapons turn out, as well as stories of Baathist atrocities, Bush can point to the war as a full success and point to the Democrats as the people who always wanted more diplomacy and more inspections that didn't help matters. This time around, the Iraq win should give the economy a boost. Not only will falling oil prices give a push to the economy, it will be a anti-inflationary push. Uncertainty about the Iraq war helped drag the economy and stock markets down; a clean victory should give both a boost. If the economy is improving by the summer of '04, the Democrats will have little to run on. If it isn't improving, they have a shot.

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