I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last couple of days following the reactions to the Spanish vote. A few observations:
1. The hawks are convinced that the Madrid bombing justifies everything Bush ever did (and nullifies all criticisms of him), and they are enraged when anyone disagrees. (No one else can exploit this tragedy, though; just them).
2. In the world of the hawks, the most vicious chauvinism is right beneath the surface. A few days ago, Spain was our brave ally. Then, right before the election, about 10% of the voters switched parties, and Spain was instantly relegated to that loathsome, detestable hellhole: Old Europe. (Expect to start hearing lots of weird ethnic slurs about Don Quixote, Don Juan, beans, garlic, greasy mustaches, etc., etc. They’ll probably mix in a lot of Mexican stuff too — because, really, who cares?)
3. Many of the hawks primarily just want to vent, and they believe that jumping to conclusions is tough, macho, and sexy. For example, there are good reasons to believe that Aznar’s party was voted out mostly because of its dishonest insistence that the Basques were responsible for the bombing, rather than because of its stance on the Iraq War per se.* But the hawks leaped gleefully to the most invidious conclusion that they could: that Spain has surrendered to the terrorists.
So whatever allies we still have in the world should clearly understand that, in the eyes of America, they will be counted among the good guys only as long as they obey us completely.
4. Hawks are completely committed to the Bush brandnaming of the War on Terror, and anyone who proposes an alternative brand will be regarded as a quisling appeaser. No criticisms of his approach are to be allowed.
5. Hawks have a complete and utter contempt for Democrats and liberals, and nothing we say to them will be listened to. We’re just a bunch of weenie America-hating pacifists who don’t care at all if hundreds of innocent people get killed.
6. As long as the War on Terrorism lasts, all elections should be decided based on what we guess that Osama wants — we should just vote for the opposite. (However, the idea that Osama wants Bush re-elected, in order to “sharpen the contradictions”, is too ridiculous even to think about).
And since the War on Terrorism, which isn’t against any specific enemy, can’t possibly ever be won (Osama is irrelevant, they’re still saying), we should plan for terrorism to be the only real political issue for the rest of our natural lives.
We will never make the hawks happy and shouldn’t try, but Kerry definitely needs to get out in front on the counter-terrorism issue. Bush’s Saudi ties make him extremely vulnerable, and Kerry should show no mercy. The Bush-Saudi connection is pretty good political red meat, but it also can be the basis for a valid and powerful criticism of the inept and misdirected Bush strategy.
Beyond that, if a terrorist attack occurs on American soil, as it very well might, Kerry has to be ready and waiting. We can be sure that Bush will exploit the tragedy to the hilt, and while we shouldn’t sink as low as we can expect him to do, we need to take the battle to Bush and put him on the defensive where he belongs. Otherwise we can kiss the election goodbye.
*Of course, the hawks just spent the last year explaining that Bush’s lies about WMD were really perfectly OK, so they might have trouble believing that Spanish voters really do get angry when they’re lied to.