Mark Steyn‘s Telegraph column today is entitled, “Bush-beating is nothing but snobbery.” He contends that the media misunderstands Bush’s appeal and is jumping through hoops trying to explain it.
Just over a month ago, John Kerry gave his “I’m reporting for duty” convention speech. I thought it was typical Kerry – “verbose, shapeless, platitudinous, complacent, ill-disciplined, arrogant, and humourless,” as I wrote in the Telegraph back then. But what do I know? The American media hailed it as a triumph. A day or two later, the numbers came in and showed that Kerry’s “triumph” had mysteriously not prompted the traditional post-convention bounce in the polls. Even Michael Dukakis got a bounce. But not Kerry. Indeed, according to Gallup, he had the first recorded instance of negative bounce.
Fortunately, the Dems and their chums in the press were able to reassure themselves that this lack of bounce didn’t mean anything. “Just before the convention, polls showed that many more Americans than usual had already made up their minds about whom to support, leaving a small number of undecided voters to woo,” explained Bill Straub of the Scripps-Howard news service. As for the Republican convention, “Bush is similarly unlikely to see his poll numbers flourish.”
Ingenious! It was the instant conventional wisdom. There are no swing voters left to bounce. The post-convention bounce is no longer relevant. It’s a thing of the past. It belongs to the age of buggy whips and whalebone corsets. Forget about it. We’re living in the post-bounce era of American politics. Only a chump not up to speed on this new political reality would be dumb enough to suggest that the absence of bounce is because Kerry’s Vietnam-retro acceptance speech was a flop.
Last Thursday, Bush gave his speech. Unlike Kerry’s “triumph”, this was a dud. “Too long,” yawned Bob Schiefer on CBS. He lost the crowd, alienated moderates, etc. Then the Time and Newsweek polls came in, and showed Bush with an 11-point lead over Kerry. How did that happen? Whatever became of the post-bounce era of American politics? Not to worry. The new conventional wisdom is that it was the sheer meanness of the Republicans that earned them the bounce, and so Kerry’s hitting back saying he’s not going to be criticised by a President and Vice-President who weren’t in Vietnam. If you didn’t serve in Vietnam, you can’t criticise John Kerry. On the other hand, if you did serve in Vietnam and you criticise John Kerry, that just means you’re a “Republican smear artist”. Either way, don’t criticise John Kerry, because, if you do, he’ll spend his next 10 campaign rallies droning on about how he’s not going to take criticism.
You can’t beat something with nothing, and Kerry is about as spectacular a nothing as you could devise – a thin-skinned whiny vanity candidate who persists in deluding himself that Bush’s advantage is all down to “smears” and “lies” and “mean” “attacks”. It’s not.
Bush’s something is very simple: his view of the war on terror resonates with a majority of the American people; when he talks about 9/11 and the aftermath, they recognise themselves in his words; they trust his strategy on this issue. For an inarticulate man, he communicates a lot more effectively than Senator Nuancy Boy.
So it would appear.
Update: Anti-Bush Snobbery II.