Misunderestimated and Misoverdespised

From The Claremont Institute

President Bush benefited in two ways from being not only misunderestimated but misoverdespised. First, the volume level inside the liberal echo chamber drowned out all other voices, ruining the political judgment of the inhabitants. It has been 32 years since Pauline Kael expressed amazement that Richard Nixon could have defeated George McGovern when absolutely everyone she knew had voted for the Democrat. Over the past eight elections the Upper East Side—like sociologically similar precincts around the country—has become even more self-referential.

Only a hearing-impaired political class, for example, could have convinced itself that the hatred of George Bush was so widely shared that it would suffice for a Democratic candidate to defeat him by merely not being him. John Kerry spent most of the weeks between securing the nomination in March and Election Day in the grip of that illusion. As a result, it was always much easier to interpret his campaign as a long list of reasons to elect Kerry than it was to come away from it clear about the reason. Devoting his most important moment in the spotlight, the Boston Democratic convention, to the non sequitur that Kerry would be a good president in 2005 because he had been a brave Navy lieutenant in 1969 was the pinnacle of that failure.


The president was mocked and reviled in dinner parties, faculty lounges, and media coverage. The cumulative effect was strong enough that an intermittently sensible columnist, Richard Cohen, was able to diagnose the affliction in an article in September, then succumb to it six weeks later. First, he wrote that he could not bring himself to hate Bush, and criticized “anti-Bush alarmists” who “compulsively blame their own country.” He warned that the “demonization of Bush is going to cost John Kerry plenty if it hasn’t already.

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