My friend Mark Evanier was expounding on one of his theories the other day. It always pays to listen, since he's so insightful and profoundly fair-minded. Even on one of those rare times I don't agree, it's worthwhile, because he not only still makes sense, but I end up wildly entertained by his diversions into great story telling.
Mark's theory is on who biggest loser in this election campaign will be. He says that whatever the final result, the biggest loser will not be John McCain or Barack Obama, however, but rather President George Bush.
His theory goes beyond the obvious, that Barack Obama and all Democrats have been campaigning against the Bush policies, and that even John McCain has finally joined most Republicans running for election in trying to separate himself from the Bush Administration and at last begun criticizing it at length, as well. Finding someone saying something positive these days about the Bush years is pretty much limited to critics who enjoyed Oliver Stone's movie, "W."
No, Mark's theory goes further. He says that President George Bush is the big loser for reasons that have nothing to do with the election. Instead, Mark notes that Mr. Bush is in a no-win situation regardless of what happens after the election. He makes his comparison to baseball and pitching.
In baseball, if a starting pitcher leaves the game with his team behind, there's no way under the rules he can be credited as the winning pitcher. It's impossible. The best that can happen is that his team comes back to win, but then the reliever who replaced him gets credit for being the victor. The worst is that he gets stuck for the loss.
And that, as Mark notes, is the position President George W. Bush finds himself in.
Whoever wins the election, if the Iraq War continues to drag on because of the mire we are stuck in, if the economy worsens, if the overbearing burden of the national debt keeps America from being able to move forward - then all blame will be placed on the cause of it all. President George W. Bush.
But let's say things work out - let's say the Iraq War ends soon, our troops pulled out and Iraq is able to take over for itself. Whoever is the new president will get full credit for that, not Mr. Bush. If the economy eventually turns around and $700 billion bailout repaid, the new president - whoever he is - will get credit that that, as well, from his programs and steady hand. Not remotely President Bush. And if the national debt finally gets trimmed, if the budget deficit is eliminated...whoever the new president is will get the credit. It won't be President George W. Bush.
Indeed, whatever happens in the next administration - if anything goes well, it will be due to the new president. If the nation continues hurtling down the wrong track, where 81% of the public believes it is headed, it will be because of the momentum with which George Bush sent it, and the disastrous hole he has dug.
Which is at it should be.
President George W. Bush has dug a hole that would make the Grand Canyon envious.
It is a hole so deep that, despite eight years as president, Mr. Bush is not even allowed to take a final "victory lap" and campaign to the cheers of a single Republican crowd, but rather must stay hidden away. It has to be mortifying. Yet try as he and the Republican Party might to make him disappear during this election, he is not only here in the forefront, but his disastrous legacy will live far beyond him.
It's worth mentioning here that another of Mr. Evanier's long-held theories has been that President George Bush's approval is far less than we see in the polls, even at just 23%. It's sort of like a Reverse Bradley Effect. Mark suggests that all the people who view George Bush unfavorably say so in the polls. But many Republicans who are mortified by President Bush's actions feel that they still have to support their Republican Party, and therefore tell pollsters that they do favor him.
Back to this election. The good news at least for Barack Obama is that, being from a different party than George Bush, he will stand separate from whatever happens next. For John McCain, though, he will forever have an anchor tied to him. That's what comes when a "maverick" follows his leader 90% of the time. And as damning to his judgment as was selecting Sarah Palin, that 90% voting record is the longest-lasting evidence of all. Should he lose, both will be the anchors that Sen. McCain forever tied on himself.
But huge as that would be, it's small potatoes. Because in the end -- and in the long run -- the biggest loser is still, and ever will be, President George W. Bush.
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