Sep 292002
Authors: Josh Hardin

I have in my possession a PowerPoint presentation created by Karl Rove, senior advisor to the president.

It is a strategic analysis of the coming election that breaks down the nation’s most competitive Senate, House and state governor seats and how the Republicans and Democrats are most vulnerable in each. I received it in an email last June while I was working in Washington, D.C.

I’m really not that important that the administration sent it to me personally; apparently an intern dropped a disk containing the presentation blocks away from the White House and it was leaked to the media.

Almost four months later, the analysis of the coming election is mostly not surprising. However, there were some troubling statements (if this presentation is indeed authentic) that still haunt me. The scariest comes from a slide labeled Republican Strategy. The first bulleted point is “focus on war and economy.”

This reminds me of a quote from White House Chief of Staff Andy Card: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t release new products in August.”

We’ve certainly heard more about a possible war in Iraq since Bush returned to Washington from his August vacation. Is the war the suspicious product Card and Rove were waiting to introduce to the nation? And what does it take to market a war to the American people?

You don’t need to release new, fresh evidence of Iraqi weapons on mass destruction. You don’t need U2 spy plane photos of nuclear sites like we gave to the United Nations during the Cuban missile crisis. You don’t need videos of cute puppy dogs being gassed like we had from al-Qaida in Afghanistan. You can rely on the sketchy 4-year-old inspection reports as Bush does in his new national security strategy.

You don’t need allies or the UN when you control the most powerful nation in the world militarily. You wouldn’t even need any authorization from Congress if it weren’t for that pesky Constitution.

Instead you would need catchy phrases like “evildoers,” “Iraq is part of the axis of evil” and “Hussein gassed his own people.” You would need to repeat the message to the masses mercilessly on every campaign stop from Washington to Crawford, Texas. You would need to act now, while presidential approval ratings and supplies of American Sept. 11 insecurities last!

Yes, don’t touch that dial because you would also need plenty of media attention to instill fear in people to buy this war because they love their country. Think of Bush’s constantly recycling slogan, “you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.” In other words, if you don’t support this war now, you are unpatriotic.

Bush is pressing the UN and Congress to make a rushed decision that is going to increase his power. He is asking the UN to grant access to Iraq by any means necessary – meaning the use of military force. He is asking Congress to give him broad military powers not just in Iraq, but the entire Middle East.

Bush and Rove remind me of CEOs of a corrupt corporation. No wonder Rove is telling the president to focus on war and economy. After all, this is the administration that has sat by for the fall of Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, Qwest and Tyco.

The administration needs to remember the basic business lesson that there is a price for every product up for sale. If we go to war with Iraq without more support from the rest of the world, we will be paying for it in young American lives, billions of tax dollars and the disappearance of the sympathy for the loss we suffered on Sept. 11 from our allies. Only we (and maybe our only committed ally, Britain) will be stuck with this bill.

In the end, it may be the unintended costs of war that will be Bush’s undoing. We may have more public backlash and protest than we saw during the Vietnam War. This country is not united on this issue and likely never will be.

If we invade and don’t have a plan for the future of post-Hussein Iraq, the current chaotic state of Afghanistan, with its constant political assassination attempts, is going to look as harmless as Switzerland. Imagine a hundred Iraqi clones of Osama bin Laden spewing from this conflict with a hundred times more animosity toward America.

The Bush administration needs to look at the economy of war and realize the costs may backfire on them. Support for the war in Iraq may be readily available for sale by the Bush administration, but I’m still not buying it.

Want a copy of the Bush administration’s election analysis? Want to comment on this column? Email Josh at: Josh spent last summer studying at the Institute for Political Journalism at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in English and his column runs every Monday in the Collegian.

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