November 3, 2004
What Happens Now?
Kevin Drum nailed it, I think. Scandal earns the day. History, the President’s first term, and the current political dynamic are brimming with evidence for this, as Drum points out:
Consider the highlight reel of reelected presidents over the past 50 years. Ike won a second term and watched in dismay as his chief of staff was forced to resign over a vicuņa coat. Richard Nixon buried George McGovern in 1972 and then resigned a year and a half later when Watergate finally caught up to him. Ronald Reagan sweated out his second term wondering if he’d be impeached over Iran-Contra. Bill Clinton didn’t have to wonder: Two years after his reelection, he was defending himself in the first impeachment trial in over a century. …
Second, there’s the problem that second terms are, well, second terms. It takes more than two or three years for a serious scandal to unfold, and problems that start to surface midway through a president’s first term usually reach critical mass midway through his second term, a phenomenon that shrewd political observer Kevin Phillips calls “the sixth-year itch.” It’s like a political SAT: What’s the next year in the series 1958, 1974, 1986, 1998?
You don’t have to be a math whiz to know that 2006 is the next stop. And once again, George Bush is especially vulnerable to this since his first term already has several good candidates for scandals waiting to flower. Take your pick: Valerie Plame? The National Guard? Abu Ghraib? Intelligence failures? Or maybe something that hasn’t really crossed anybody’s radar screen yet, sort of like the “third-rate burglary” at the Watergate Hotel that no one took seriously in 1972.
I don’t expect the scandals will do much more than papercut the President himself, after all, the biggest head anyone’s expecting to roll in the Valerie Plame incident is Scooter Libby, if any head rolls at all.
I half expect everything else but the Supreme Court to be pretty calm, nothing tremendously catastrophic or exhilarating in the near-term. Of course, several countries could change things drastically on the foreign policy front. More speculation tomorrow. Bed for now.