Friday, January 28, 2005

Iraqi Election Analysis on MPR

I listened to MPR last night. I don't listen often enough that I could tell you the name of the show, but it was the one on at 9pm.

The segment I listened to had two college professors, one in political science and the other in history who also held a "critical thinking" chair, discussing the upcoming Iraqi elections. Both of them offered some interesting personal perspective, as well as some more detailed explanation of how the election process actually is supposed to work.

But then, as I knew he would, the host steered the discussion in an American domestic political direction. I let out a sigh. MPR - college professors - Iraq - did they even need to open their mouths for us to know where they stood here? I was somewhat gratified that the professors seemed to be of the rational dispassionate variety. They certainly seemed to share the pessimistic mindset common among the left in which every possible outcome in Iraq carried a downside which cancelled out the good. But I was struck by something else.

The gist of their analysis revolved around the actions and statements of the Bush administration leading up to the Iraqi election. They talked about how Bush had redefined success so far downward that no matter the outcome, the administration would declare it a success.

I was reminded of the moment in the debate between John Kerry and President Bush when Kerry insisted it would be impossible to hold elections in January. That they would have to be delayed. Bush insisted it was possible, and we would help Iraq get it done. And this Sunday, that is exactly what will happen.

So who exactly has been redefining the terms of success here? There are plenty of grounds for criticizing the administration's conduct in Iraq, but lack of a consistent message regarding Iraqi elections isn't one. On this matter, Bush has stood like the Rock of Gibralter against persistent pressure to back down.

Incidentally, the professors both predicted around 50-60 percent turn out at the polls. If the turn out is much higher, do you suppose they will declare a greater than expected success? Or will they redefine success upward?

More than any political figure since Reagan, Bush's critics seem drawn to project their own behavior upon him.

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