Baffling the "moderates"

Mark Steyn:

"It's a good rule of thumb that so-called moderate opinion is several degrees to the left of popular opinion. You can test this for yourself easily enough: pick a subject such as, say, illegal immigration and compare the position of every Democratic senator, the majority of Republican senators and 90 percent of the media with the position of the American people.

"That's why the press were befuddled by last week's polls. A month of Richard Clarke, the 9/11 Commission, Bob Woodward, Muqtada al-Sadr, Fallujah and Basra, and a constant drip-drip-drip of conventional wisdom on the president's "vulnerability" from the Beltway to Hollywood to the Ivy League to that brave radio station in Plattsburgh, N.Y., that's now the flagship of Al Franken's Air America ''network'' -- and what happens? Bush's numbers go up and Kerry's go down.

"Another six weeks of Dick Clarke's book tour, of snotty network reporters condescending to the president at his press conference, of the sneering Richard Ben Veniste and emotionally unhinged Bob Kerrey badgering Condi Rice at their hack hearings, of Bob Woodward and his unreadable book filling up slabs of CNN's prime time every night with irrelevant arcana about what did Prince Bandar know and when did he tell Woodward he knew it, another six weeks of things that make Bush 'vulnerable,' and he'd be heading for a 49-state blowout over Kerry.


"How can this be? Well, let's turn to our senior political analyst, the late Osama bin Laden. In his final video appearance 2-1/2 years ago, Osama observed that, when people have a choice between a strong horse and a weak horse, they go with the strong horse. But, to take that a stage further, the strong horse doesn't have to be that strong when the other fellow's flogging a dead horse.

"The 9/11 Commission? Nobody cares. You can't drive the car when you're staring in the rear-view mirror. And, as those polls showed, if Americans are forcibly plonked in front of that rear-view mirror, they lay more blame on eight years of Clinton administration policy than eight months of Bush administration policy.


"That's why even the old quagmire scenario now playing 24/7 on the cable channels doesn't work for Kerry. Visiting foreigners often remark on that popular T-shirt slogan, usually found below the Stars and Stripes: "These Colors Don't Run." To non-Americans, it seems a trifle touchy. But for a quarter-century the presumption of the country's enemies was that those colors did run -- they ran from Vietnam, from the downed choppers in the Iranian desert, from Mogadishu. Even the successful campaigns -- the inconclusively concluded Gulf War and the air-only Kosovo war -- seemed designed to avoid putting those colors in the position of having to run. As Osama saw it, these colors ran from the African embassy bombings, and the Khobar towers, and he pretty much expected them to run from 9/11, too.

"A narrow majority of Americans get this: Being seen not to run -- or, if you prefer, being seen to show 'resolve' -- is now an indispensable objective of U.S. foreign policy. So, when four contractors get lynched and hung off a bridge in Fallujah, poor foolish Sen. Robert Byrd may think it's time for an 'exit strategy,' but most Americans want to see the thugs who did it hunted down and killed.

"One day it will not be necessary to sell 'These Colors Don't Run' T-shirts. But it is as long as Byrd, Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore & Co. are twitching to add Iraq to the pockmarked pantheon of Vietnam, Iran and Somalia.


"U.S. public opinion is hardheaded about this: The welfare of the Iraqi people is a bonus, but the welfare of the American people is the primary objective. That's why the United States went to war.

"That's the problem for the Democrats. If 'resolve' is the issue, can you beat it with 'nuance'? If I had to name the definitive Kerry campaign headline it would be this, from Britain's (left-wing, Kerry-backing) Guardian last week: 'Kerry Says His ''Family'' Owns SUV, Not He.' That Chevy Suburban in the yard has nothing to do with him. Who you gonna believe? A respected senator or your lying eyes?

"His statement is true in the sense that his 'family' (i.e., Teresa) also owns the house and the grounds, and indeed a big chunk of his presidential campaign. But it's hard to claim that your powers of diplomatic persuasion would have won over the French and Germans when you can't even win over your 'family.' And do Americans want to hand over responsibility for Iraq to someone who won't even take responsibility for the car in his driveway?"


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