The 2006 Election Lacks a Vision for the Iraq War
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
President Bush is hailing the verdict in the Saddam Hussein trial, and he's been mentioning it during his last day of campaigning before the mid-term election.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: On Sunday, we witnessed a landmark event in the history of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death.
(Soundbite of applause)
BLOCK: President Bush speaking at an event today in Pensacola, Florida.
The Saddam verdict and the election have both been on the mind of NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.
DANIEL SCHORR: In more than 50 years that I've participated in coverage of national elections, I've never seen one that found Americans in a more sour mood. They are largely sick of $2 billion worth of campaigns geared mainly to destroying the reputations of rivals using attack ads, often with trivial themes.
For example, in Montana, automated telephone calls for Senator Conrad Burns accused his Democratic opponent, Jon Tester, of not having bought a hunting license for 15 years.
Voters have also found themselves distracted by the non-election squabbles of the day. The White House had to deny that the death sentence for Saddam Hussein was timed for its effect on the election, and speakers at a Colorado Springs church service condemning the disgraced Evangelical leader Ted Haggard urged the congregation not to look for conspiracies. One pastor said if homosexual disclosure should affect the election, that is God's will.
But the most important item not written on the ballot is the Iraq War and President Bush's failure so far to extricate America from that war. War can become a political problem or an asset for a president.
In 1900, William McKinley's recent victory in the Spanish-American War helped him win reelection. In 1952, candidate Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency after promising to go to Korea and help conclude the war, which took another year to bring to a halt. In the 1968 campaign, Richard Nixon was elected after referring to a plan to end the Vietnam War - secret plan were not his words. And four years later, Henry Kissinger, negotiating with the North Vietnamese, proclaimed that peace is at hand, after which some 1,300 American soldiers were killed.
And so now Iraq and the question of how America got into the war, but the more immediate question of how America gets out. Inevitably, some of the responsibility for the Iraq War is shouldered by the party in power in this ritual of democracy.
This is Daniel Schorr.