Off The Record: About contented cows, calves and presidential candidates

October 04, 2004|HERB BROCK

During her speech at Centre College's graduation last spring, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor offered an anecdote dealing with the key issue in the 1932 presidential election that could be applied to the key issue in the 2004 war for the White House.

Seventy-two years ago incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover was doing battle with Democrat challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt. The main issue was the Depression, and Hoover was being blasted by FDR and other Democrats for the way Hoover was dealing with the economic disaster.

According to O'Connor, former president and fellow Republican Calvin Coolidge was trying to console Hoover over his anger with attacks from Democrats, who were charging that the Depression was at least partly Hoover's fault and that the incumbent's plan to right the country's economic ship wasn't working.

Agreeing with Hoover that the Democrats were not being patient enough with the Hoover plan, Coolidge said, according to the justice, that the Democratic attitude was akin to "freeing a bunch of bulls into a field and expecting to see a bunch of calves birthed overnight."


She said Hoover replied: "It would be nice if there were at least some contented cows the public could see."

This presidential election year, Republican George W. Bush believes his war in Iraq has produced both calves (the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the creation of an interim government) and contented cows (at least a plurality of voters in pre-debate polls showing they favor Bush over John Kerry).

But like Hoover, Bush believes he is being unfairly and prematurely attacked by impatient Democrats who are charging that, while it may be nice Saddam is in prison, the president's post-war plan, if you can call it that, is not working. While it was arguable how much blame Hoover should have gotten for the Depression that led to his controversial plan to deal with the economic catastrophe, there is no debate over the responsibility for the war that led to Bush's much maligned post-war plan. It was his call and he's proud of it.

The commander-in-chief's critic-in-chief, John Kerry, and other Democrats say the president's post-war scheme has produced a lot of progeny, but not many healthy calves or contented cows. The offspring of the war and post-war plan, they say, are more than 1,000 dead American soldiers, sailors and Marines, thousands of insurgents, an influx of outside terrorists, and a puppet government that likely will be engulfed in a civil war.

War and peace - and the 2004 version of those 1932 calves and cows - was the main issue in the Bush-Kerry debate Thursday night. There will be another presidential debate this Friday night and the last one will be on Oct. 13.

As last week's debate showed, the president is Johnny One Note on Iraq while Kerry is Johnny Multiple Notes trying to make us believe he's singing one song. Bush set the course and wants to stay the course. Kerry didn't like the course, liked the course, liked parts of the course and disliked other parts of the course, will stay the course, won't stay the course, will change the course, and, whatever it is he would do, would do it "better and smarter" than Bush, of course.

Bush's one note and Kerry's concerto were both on display Thursday night and will be throughout the rest of the campaign. The questions posed of the two candidates at the debate were good ones, attempting to get the single-minded, simple-minded Bush to add a note or two more of illumination to his rhetoric and to get the nuanced and indecisive Kelly to consolidate all of his notes into a coherent, consistent and understandable position.

No question

But in my mind, there is no question about the following regarding Iraq:

* The American military deserves credit for removing, in record time, one of the most tyrannical dictators in world history.

* Bush should have removed the troops, in record time, after they had accomplished what should have been the only goal of the war, if there had to be one in the first place.

* There's a better chance that there will be a civil war in Iraq than a democracy.

* The money that has been budgeted for Iraq should be applied to Afghanistan, the war on terror and homeland security.

* 527s get the collective award for playing the most important new role in a presidential campaign, especially in the debate over Iraq, nudging out other loopholes in that joke called the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.

* Sean Hannity gets the award for being Kerry's biggest critic, nudging out

* Michael Moore gets the award for being Bush's biggest critic, nudging out

* George W. Bush gets the award for being the war's biggest supporter, nudging out Haliburton.

* Howard Dean gets the award for being the war's biggest critic, screeching out Ted Kennedy.

* John Kerry gets the double award for being the war's biggest supporter, critic and seer of both sides of the issue, all at the same time, nudging out himself.

* The country would be in a lot better shape, both at home and abroad, with my write-in choice for president at the helm - Colin Powell.

* History repeats itself. In 1932, it was the Depression, stupid. In 2004, it's the war, dunce. And in both 1932 and 2004, both Republican incumbents are having cows over criticism of their handling of two great catastrophes.

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