The big issue is Iraq, but the core problem with suburban voters is not the decision to go to war; it’s the White House’s reaction to the mess afterward. As Robert Lang, the superlative suburban specialist at Virginia Tech, notes, when people mess up a project in an office park, there are consequences. But Donald Rumsfeld never gets fired. Jerry Bremer and Tommy Franks get medals.

This is not how engineers and empirically minded managers behave. The people in these offices manage information for a living, and when they see Republicans denying obvious trends, or shutting out relevant data, they say to themselves, ‘’Those people are not like me.'’ ~David Brooks, The New York Times

As I keep banging away in my posts about voting, being able to identify personally in some way with a candidate is crucial to that candidate winning a voter’s support.  If Brooks’ suburban engineers and managers see serial incompetence and a commitment to not hold anyone accountable for his area of responsibility, do they sit out or flee to the other side en masse?  If they see Mr. Bush openly praise Don Rumsfeld for the “fantastic” job he and Cheney have been doing six days before the election, do they have to suppress their gag reflex?  In a strange way, the relatively underreported praise of Rumsfeld (and Cheney) may be as harmful to Republican electoral prospects as Kerry has been to the Dems.  Voters may think to themselves after hearing the praise for Rumsfeld, “Yes, Kerry is a buffoon, and I loathe him, but Bush and his administration are almost certifiable in their blindness to reality!”  These suburban engineers and managers Brooks refers to may think to themselves, “If I had screwed up a project this badly, I would never work in my field again.  Depending on what happened, I might be put in jail!” 

This will make them as angry as history students were when Doris Kearns-Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose were able to get away with blatant plagiarism–something that would have ended a student’s career in a heartbeat–and continue to be fairly popular and acclaimed authors.  There is basic injustice and viscerally-felt wrongness to Rumsfeld’s continued tenure at Defense that everyone can sense and understand.  Everybody in the private sector (or even in academia, supposed haven of unrealistic nitwits) knows that in their jobs such failure would never be tolerated, much less would the failure be openly praised as if he were God’s gift to humanity (oh, wait, Rumsfeld can’t be God’s gift to humanity–that’s universal freedom’s job!). 

But not everyone thinks Bush’s praise is so crazy.  If you are Michael Novak and Mario Loyola (who is also more Hinderakerian than Hinderaker in his Bush-love), your main disagreement seems to be just how fantastic Rumsfeld is.  How bad was the Rumsfeld love-fest?  Even Ledeen had to beg off and call for a time out (though he was objecting more to minutiae of Rumsfeld’s management style rather than his very large, glaring failures).  I swear I cannot understand the thinking of people who see Rumsfeld as one of the greatest War/Defense Secretaries of all time.  I do not jest.  Novak: “I call Donald Rumsfeld the best Defense Secretary the U.S. has ever had.”  I am not sure this can be understood by the mind of rational man. 

It goes beyond partisanship into some hyperean region of delusion where most men cannot reach.  To reach it you must unlock the door of reality with the key of imagination.  Beyond this door is another dimension–a dimension of deafness, a dimension of blindness, a dimension of mindlessness.  You’re moving into a land of both spin and shallowness, of both party hacks and shills.  You’ve just crossed over into…The Corner Zone! 

Separately, but no less absurd, Mr. Bush offered this gem today:

“Anybody who is in a position to serve this country ought to understand the consequences of words,” Mr. Bush said, “and our troops deserve the full support of people in government.”

The consequences of words?  Yes, people in positions of authority should choose their words carefully!  You wouldn’t want people to get the wrong “misimpression.”  Do these carefully chosen words include words like “stuff happens,” “you go to war with the army you have,” “freedom is messy,” “stay the course,” “bring ‘em on,” “Islamic fascist,” “axis of evil,” “reconstituted nuclear weapons program,” “this is based on solid intelligence” (Powell), “we had our accountability moment,” ”we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” ”Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job,” “Islam is a religion of peace,” “I’m pleased to be here with Don Sherwood,” “I believe a gift from that Almighty is universal freedom,” “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!”, “these are the birth pangs of a new Middle East” (Condi), “democracies don’t war,” “we have different routes of getting to the Almighty” (Bush on Christians and Muslims), “it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century”?  Of course not.

One last note of comedy: David Brooks, who obviously could not have taken account of Mr. Bush heaping praise on Rumsfeld, writes in his column today that part of the post-election Iraq effort would involve firing Rumsfeld.  Whoops!