Saturday, October 16, 2004

Playing the draft card 

In Iowa yesterday, Kerry raised the spectre of the draft if Bush is elected to a second term. Coming right now, this comment is a little worrying. It's something I expected Kerry to bring up as a desperation ploy if he was down in the polls the final few weeks of the campaign. The reason it's a desperation ploy is that it has a lot of potential for backfiring. The Bush camp can cry foul, accuse Kerry of "fear-mongering," and try to use the comment to undermine Kerry's credibility. It opens Kerry up to the kind of attack that worked so well against Al Gore: "This is a man who will say and do anything to get elected." If that line sounds familiar, that's because it's exactly what Cheney said after Wednesday's debate, referring to Kerry's remarks about his daughter. The line could be applied equally effectively to the draft comments.

So I'm puzzled as to why Kerry brought this up now, when he is nearly tied in the polls. Because undecided voters tend to break against the incumbent, if current polls are accurate and the election were held today, it would be a 2000-style cliffhanger. It could easily go either way. The fact that Kerry chose to play the draft card in this situation could be a sign that Kerry is running significantly worse in the campaign's internal polling than in public polls. On the other hand, some Kerry advisers were evidently surprised by the comment. So it could have been an off-the-cuff remark on Kerry's part rather than a strategic decision by the campaign. Either way, I think it was a mistake to play the draft card with the polls as close as they are and over two weeks still to go before election day. At least wait for the first batch of post-debate polls!

As to whether there actually will be a draft if Bush is re-elected: probably not, but it's hard to be sure. It depends how crazy you think the neocons really are. I do not think the situation in Iraq will worsen sufficiently to require a draft. But I read an article recently, can't remember where, which had quotes from various eminent neocons lamenting the fact that the mess in Iraq had destroyed the public's "appetite" for preemptive war. Clearly there are some people who think we need to keep pursuing the preemptive strategy. Presumably that means Syria or Iran. Invading either one would certainly require a draft. Now it's hard to see how a draft bill would pass congress, unless there's another major terrorist attack. After another attack, all bets are off. The fate of the draft rests on exactly how extreme are the positions of the neocons high up in the Bush administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith), and on the possibility of another 9/11-type attack.

Back to the Odd Hours main page
© 2004 Odd Hours
Reproduction permitted provided Odd Hours or the author of the quoted post is credited.