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Re-electing George W. Bush

Commentary by Greg Lewis / Washington
June 15, 2004

Recent polls indicate that John Kerry holds a slight lead in more than half of the so-called "battleground" or swing states, where the dizzyingly sophisticated political strategists are concentrating both their polling and advertising resources. To this point: If, in fact, you don't happen to live in a state that is in play, you'll have a difficult time monitoring the Presidential ad war, so stingy are the campaigns with dollars allocated to states whose outcomes are fairly well decided.

When a new ad surfaces for either candidate, Fox's Brit Hume will play it, along with the responses from the opposition, on his nightly news broadcast. And Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke will discuss the effectiveness of the ads on their Saturday evening show, "The Beltway Boys." Fred and Mort also tote up the electoral votes for each candidate based on poll numbers. Their latest tally has Kerry receiving in the low 300s, with Bush picking up 230+, meaning that, according to the polls, Kerry would win the Presidency if the election were held today.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, there is a lot wrong with it. First, it gives the wrong outcome of the 2004 Presidential election. Bush is going to walk away with it, winning as many as 35 states and garnering in the mid to high 300s as far as electoral votes are concerned. This despite — or perhaps partly because of — his recently coming off a tough six-week period in Iraq. The war in Iraq, which stands proxy for the global war against an invidious and decentralized enemy, is still the key issue in the election. And notwithstanding the difficulties of the past month and a half, Bush's poll numbers are starting to creep back up. Americans are beginning to understand that this President will keep his pledge to battle terrorists relentlessly, and they know in their hearts that this is a fight we must win. Bush has repeatedly said that his Iraq strategy is not about his getting re-elected, but that it is about making the world a safer and more democratic place. And that is precisely the reason that he'll get re-elected.

Iraq is, of course, the current focus of the war against terrorism. Our success there, to the extent it gets reported at all, is the key to Bush's victory. And make no mistake about it, we are on a path to success. Let's take a look at the evidence for this statement.

Despite the media's overwhelmingly head-in-the-sand response to our struggles against, particularly, the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr in the past two months, that insurgency has been essentially neutralized. Not that there aren't still skirmishes going on, and not that al-Sadr hasn't offered and then reneged on at least two "deals" to end his insurgency. In the midst of this turmoil, the interim government in Iraq has been installed. And a consortium of Iraqi Shiite clerics (More than 60 percent of Iraqis are Shiites), led by the Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, has given its blessing, however muted, to the new government. This conditional approval, coming as it does from the man many cite as the most powerful figure in Iraq, will go a long way toward legitimizing the new government and toward providing a point of unity for the Iraqi people. For it is among the people that the government's successes must be won.

Although the differences between the American struggle for independence in the 18th century and the current Iraqi struggle are enormous, there is an interesting parallel between the two situations. As John Hart Ely has pointed out in his book Democracy and Distrust, the ratification of the constitution of the United States was done by popular vote. And although there were many who opposed the Constitution and voted against adopting it, when the Constitution was approved, everyone accepted the legitimacy of the majority's verdict.

Something similar is happening in Iraq, albeit more slowly and with the need to overcome enormous obstacles: The interim 25-person Iraqi Governing Council has already resigned and ceded power to the transitional government, which, although the official date for the transfer of power is June 30, is in fact already up and running. The key is that the new government is gradually coming to be accepted by the majority of Iraqis as the government of their country. The blessings of Iraq's influential clerics have gone some way toward this outcome, but the fact is that a majority of the Iraqi people favor a democratically self-governed Iraq, though there is widespread disagreement about the extent to which Islamic law should be part of the new Iraqi democracy and about how the power should be divvied up. Both the Kurds and the Sunnis (the latter, representing about 20 percent of Iraq's population, held power and wielded it brutally over Kurds and Shiites during Saddam's reign) will fight for representation as the country's constitution is developed. The Kurds have threatened to withdraw from Iraq if certain conditions are not met.

But despite the factionalism and the fractious jockeying for power that will characterize the emergence of a democratic Iraq, the bottom line for President Bush is that a war for global independence is being fought in Iraq against a concentration of the very terrorists who would disrupt democracy around the world. The American people know that, and they are not about to vote George W. Bush out of office in the middle of the most important battle this country and its allies have fought in more than half a century.

Greg Lewis is the co-author of the Warner Books hardcover "End Your Addiction Now."

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