A Future Kerry Administration II
Loyal reader Mr Snuggle Bunny took issue with an earlier post where I argued the up-side of a possible Kerry victory. Mr Snuggle Bunny believes Kerry would become a "Leftist sychophant."
Certainly there will be a change in style and vocabulary and indeed in almost all the public and visual aspects of the presidency. But regarding the war on terror I don't see much room for change for several reasons.
First, Kerry can only replace political appointees, not federal government workers. The people who perform the actual labor will still be in place. The head of the FBI will change but the surveillance, investigation, and arrest of suspected terrorists and terror supporters will continue because the same careerists who are doing the surveilling and investigating will still be in place next winter. The head of the Justice Dept will change but the prosecution of terrorist will continue for the same reasons. Likewise with the Dept of Homeland Security, the new intelligence office and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The War Against Jihad is now a function of our government, there is an inertia to it, and it will continue largely beyond the reach of the top layer of political appointees. In this case the cliche that the government is like a supertanker is true: it is hard to change directions and harder to stop.
Second, after this election Kerry will be very sensative to charges of weakness. He will go to great lengths to avoid the Whimp label. If he yields to pressure from some quarters to, for example end the prosecution of some high-profile terror supporter, he will be playing to stereotype and tarring himself with the label he most despises.
Third, public opinion will not tolerate any softness on terror. Parts of the Left may long for an easing of the war but the broader public, while divided on Iraq, is unified on the War on Terror. As much as Kerry may wish, the public will not go back to the fall of 2000 when al Qaeda could kill 17 sailors and nearly sink the Cole and the U.S. not respond 'for lack of conclusive evidence.' Those days are gone along with other bad ideas like WebVan and Kosmo.com.
The lesson that Kerry and everyone else will learn from a possible Bush defeat is this: the country is so divided that the president has to do anything to keep his approval numbers, he popularity with voters high even at the expense of alienating part of his base (especially in Kerry's case where a large section of his base isn't voting for him but against Bush).
Thinking back since my first post I do think I overestimated the unity of the Left. Some on the Left are clearly irresponsible and will break with Kerry at the first opportunity. Clinton kept the Left in quiet while he passed welfare reform and other centrist programs. Bush did a good job of keeping the Right unified for the Medicaid drug bill and the No Child Left Behind bill, two big government programs that traditional conservatives should have balked at but didn't.
I doubt Kerry can do as well as either of his predecessors, for one thing because the Left is more organized and vocal and plain mad than it was during the Clinton years. Kerry will be caught between an angry Left who'll feel betrayed and an angry Right who'll despise Kerry for being Kerry. It will be an unpleasant four years for everyone, if Kerry wins.