Americans simply will not elect a liberal when they feel fear. Since President Bush deserves the credit for our security (through the countless actions he's initiated: tough FISA laws, winning in Iraq, taking on The Taliban in Afghanistan, etc.), he's made the Obama candidacy palatable.
Similarly, Jimmy Carter, could only have beaten Republican Gerald Ford if Americans felt safe. And in 1976, they did. While the Cold War was always on the front burner, during the '70s the chill between America and the former Soviet Union had thawed considerably. Our two countries collaborated on the immensely successful Apollo-Soyuz space missions, signed a nuclear agreement (the SALT Treaty), and entered a period of détente -- a decided easing of tensions.
Yes, there were international incidents that threatened to derail this precarious understanding. The 1973 Arab-Israeli war, for one, certainly heightened tensions. But by and large the late '60s through the early '80s was a time of significantly less anxiety between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. No Détente, no Jimmy Carter! The architects of Détente were Republican President Nixon and his Republican Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. They made Carter possible.
It's the same story with another liberal, Bill Clinton. If the Soviet Union hadn't come apart and been reconstituted as a Democracy in August 1991, no one would have considered the young, unknown Governor of Arkansas for the top job in 1992. It's only because the Republican president Ronald Reagan brilliantly managed the end of the Cold War, and the Republican president George H.W. Bush defanged (at the time) Saddam Hussein in Gulf War I, that our country would even consider another "Jimmy Carter".
In modern times, the Jimmy Carters among us -- like Barack Obama -- who have neither foreign policy experience or impressive legislative accomplishments, but are charismatic, appealing looking and well-spoken agents of "change," seem to come along in 16 year intervals: JFK, in 1960; Carter, in 1976, and Clinton, in 1992.
All of them won the presidency because the Republican presidents who preceded them kept America safe. In so doing, voters felt that they could take a chance on a liberal.
Now, here we are, another 16 years after Clinton and wouldn't you know, the Democrat candidate, Barack Obama, is another young, unknown liberal. Does anyone really believe, if we had been attacked a number of times over these past seven years, the empty bromides of "Yes We Can" from a former "community organizer" would have registered in Iowa? I don't think so. Americans could only consider an Obama, because of the remarkable success of President Bush, through his decisive actions, in ratcheting down the fear Americans felt for many years after 9/11.
Of course, the Left insists that we're not safer than we were after 9/11. But, until they come up with a number lower than zero, as in the number of attacks against us since then, that argument remains silly.
Certainly, America does not want a resurgence of the Cold War, but if the Russian Bear continues to rear it's head by continuing its provocations -- into the Ukraine for instance -- or, a major confrontation with Iran unfolds -- then Americans are very likely, out of a justified fear, not to elect a liberal.
But, if the current, general atmosphere of everyday life remains as calm through November as it does today -- and Senator Obama is elected -- his first "thank you" note should be addressed to the man who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Follow Seth Swirsky on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sethswirsky