After the elections, before the war
Two years before the U.S. presidential elections, with security and economic crises on the horizon, it's too soon to predict a Bush victory over whoever is the Democratic candidate. But he'll be starting the race in a much better position than his father.
From a marketing maven's perspective, perhaps the best way to compensate the American public for the events of 9/11 would be to strike next week on 11/9. That's not a serious reason to start a campaign, but in Washington, packaging is as important as the merchandise. And the last time, Gen. Colin Powell convinced the president, also a George Bush, to end the war so it would be known as "the 100-hour campaign."
In the coming days, the political process required of the current President Bush will be completed as a necessary precondition for the military campaign in Iraq. Congress is behind him, the UN Security Council will be (and if not, Article 15 of the UN treaty, allowing self-defense will be invoked), and the public will balance the see-saw of control between the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives. It's an important, though not fatal issue: no matter what the result, Bush will have to take into account his opponents, though he won't be as dependent on them as his father was.
A week from this morning - when Americans vote for Congress, a third of the Senate, and a number of governors - is the anniversary of the Tse'elim 2 disaster, in which five soldiers were killed during what foreign reports said was a practice session for an assassination attempt on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's life. Two days previously, on November 3, will be exactly 10 years since Bush Sr. lost to Bill Clinton (largely because of a third candidate, Ross Perot), for the U.S. presidency.
Along with the Jewish vote in American politics - their votes, and their cash, which grease the wheels of the machinery so necessary to break the deadlock in key states and legislative votes - there's the American vote in Israel - the right of Israelis and others with American citizenship to take part in the federal elections. The International Herald Tribune, distributed with this newspaper, has lately focused its survival efforts on American expatriates, "ex-pats," which suggests, perhaps, changing "yordim" to the softer "ex-raelis."
An international census of American expatriates published this week in the Tribune put Israel in the superpower category. America's neighbors, Mexico (with more than a million) and Canada (with nearly 700,000), are at the top of the ladder, but the 184,000 Americans in Israel put it in fifth place, just behind Britain (with 224,000) and Germany (210,000), but ahead of Italy, the Philippines, Australia, France and the rest of the world. The entire Arab world together has only two-thirds the number of Americans that Israel alone has.
There's a bitter battle under way between the local Republican and Democratic branches, each of which is urging expatriates here to send in absentee ballots. To an outsider, it's amusing. Each party branch leader claims his group is in the lead, and has enough votes to make the vote matter, especially in Florida, the home state of thousands of Israeli-American voters. The activists here are going all the way. They're more Democrat than the Democrats at home (opposing the war in Iraq, unlike the majority in their party back in the United States), and more Republican than the Republicans (Iraq? Of course, and at the same time, conquer Palestine). The courting of the ex-pats in Israel will be stepped up in the 2004 elections.
Two years before the U.S. presidential elections, with security and economic crises on the horizon, it's too soon to predict a Bush victory over whoever is the Democratic candidate. But he'll be starting the race in a much better position than his father, who lost despite a successful campaign against Saddam. The comparison between the two is forced, indeed absurd. In his eighth year as vice president, Bush Sr. beat a governor (Mike Dukakis). His son, a governor, beat a vice president who had been on the job eight years. The father lost seeking to extend his party's control over the White House to 16 years. The son will only ask for eight.
Bush's supremacy over the Democrats will be the winning fact in American politics in the coming years. No Israeli prime minister will be able to maneuver around that fact, especially not after November 2004, to try sabotaging Bush's policies on the issues of peace and the territories.