George W. Bush may believe he has the mandate of heaven for what, as I write, is still the looming war in Iraq, but he's not doing very well on earth. Indeed, he's all but unified the planet in opposition to the notion of a U.S.-led preemptive war.
It is Saturday morning, Jan. 18, and in Washington and San Francisco, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have gathered to protest the president's pending war. In Des Moines, Iowa, hundreds of Democrats are turning out, too -- both to oppose that war, it seems, and begin the process of unseating that president.
Gore is gone, and the race for the Democratic nomination in 2004 is so wide open, says one Democratic pollster, "The plausibility of why-not-me? candidacies has just exploded."
This isn't 1992, when Mario Cuomo's decision not to run failed to prompt any prominent national Democrats who'd been holding back to hop into the race. Running against Bush 43, apparently, is not the deterrent that running against Bush 41 once was. Gephardt, Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, Dean -- and perhaps Daschle, Dodd and such wild cards as Biden, Hart, Sharpton and Clark -- this is the Democrats' A-list. Truth be told, though, it isn't much of an A-list. In particular, it has only one (former) governor, Howard Dean.
So who you gonna believe, Bob Woodward or Ron Suskind? In Bush at War, Woodward's new behind-the-scenes account of the White House in wartime, mighty battles are waged between the Powellites and the Cheneyistas over the fundamentals of foreign policy. Multilateralists duke it out with unilateralists, leaving the president to choose between, or meld, two distinctly opposed viewpoints of America's proper role in the world.
We have been here before. In the wake of yet another of their periodic election debacles, the Democrats are deflated and dispirited, bothered and bewildered. Bewildered, I think, more than anything else. After all, this is not 1980, the year of the Reagan ascendancy. The American electorate is not clamoring for less government. Indeed, the public's domestic concerns are precisely those issues that congressional Democrats should have won on: better schools, more affordable and comprehensive health coverage, economic security. Yet these are the issues on which Republicans successfully masked their differences with the Democrats.