. . . Sunday October 31, 2004

Political Traumatic Stress Syndrome

This year, for Halloween, I went as an issue other than terrorism or Iraq.

Not a single person recognized me.

Yes, it’s come to this. The final weekend. And it’s, as one might have predicted, all about the wars on terrorism and in Iraq. That’s both good news and bad news for the incumbent.

The good news: Aside from disparaging Kerry, the major goal of the Bush campaign team was to keep the focus on the wars and defense. And that makes some sense. W still has an edge when it comes to poll questions focused on terrorism. On one very major level, the Bush team achieved what they set out to do.

The bad news: Almost all of the coverage of the very topics on which the Bush team wanted us focused has been negative. When they developed the strategy, they obviously had little idea that the banner news out of Iraq would be much more catastrophic and much less about success. The images from Iraq coupled with the bin Laden broadcast serve as a stark reminder that W’s tough talk hasn’t always been supported by results on the ground.

And here’s the other news: Whichever candidate wins, his backers will have to quickly shake off the post-election hangover and start to focus on all of the other issues that have been ignored. None of them (Mary Cheney’s love life excepted) have broken through. Forget flu shots, forget social security privitization, forget the deficit, forget outsourcing, forget healthcare, forget the environment and education, forget all of it. Even the surprise surgery on the Supreme Court chief justice couldn’t jar our attention from the issues of war and peace of mind.

The irony is that, whether it’s W or Kerry, we will likely see only modest differences when it comes to our two wars. We have few strategic options in Iraq and regarldless of marketing messages to the contrary, both men will be firm in the battle against terrorists. It seems like the right day to consider that during this endless campaign season, we may have been tricked more than treated.

Concentration is important!