WHOSE WAR?….On the off chance that you were feeling cheerful today, Juan Cole has a great big bucket of ice to dump on you:
If the Democrats cannot prevail in withdrawing before Bush goes out of office (and they cannot), and if they then rapidly draw down the troops on taking office in 2009, they face the real prospect of a “Gerald Ford meltdown” of the sort that occurred in 1975 when the North Vietnamese and their VC allies took over South Vietnam….The consequences may include even higher petroleum prices than we have seen recently, which at some point could bring back stagflation or very high rates of inflation.
In other words, the Democratic president risks being Fordized when s/he withdraws from Iraq, by the aftermath. A one-term president associated with humiliation abroad and high inflation at home? Maybe I should say, Carterized. The Republican Party could come back strong in 2012 and then dominate politics for decades, if that happened.
It is all so unfair, of course, since Bush started and prosecuted this disaster in Iraq, and Bush is refusing to accept responsibility for the failure, pushing it off onto his successor.
But life is unfair.
Now, I’m going to disagree with Juan on two grounds. First, I’m not convinced Vietnam really hurt Ford much. What with Watergate, an oil shock, stagflation, telling New York City to drop dead, and so forth, I always figured any Democratic opponent should have won about 500 electoral votes in 1976. The fact that Ford did as well as he did is strong evidence that the public understood perfectly well he wasn’t responsible for Vietnam. Second, the Iraq war is even more clear cut. It’s so plainly George Bush’s debacle that I’m not sure the public is going to blame a Democratic president who earnestly tries to withdraw in a reasonable way from Iraq, even if it does blow up afterwards.
That said, though, Juan’s scenario is utterly plausible. Things very well could go that way. Dems may not have the votes to defund the war, but I sure hope they’re at least thinking hard about how to keep Republicans from pinning the blame on them for its inevitable ghastly conclusion.