Here is a point that the media doesn't often mention: During the Cold War, (1946-1991), there were 10 presidential elections. Democrats won four of them: 1948, 1960, 1964, and 1976. Republicans won six of them. Not only did the Republicans win the majority of presidential elections held during the Cold War, but three of those Democratic wins were relatively close: 1948, 1960, and 1976. The Republicans only had two elections of their six wins that were relatively close: 1968 and 1980. The other four elections were blow-outs. During the same period there was only one Democratic blow-out and that was in 1964.
The end of the Cold War brought different results in the next three elections. Clinton wins both the 1992 and the 1996 elections and Gore wins the popular vote in 2000 and comes within 600 votes of winning the 2000 electoral college vote. In 2004, however, after the start of the Iraqi War, Bush wins the presidential vote by about 3 million votes. The closest re-election of any president since the end of WWII, but still a vast improvement over his popular vote in 2000.
Now we have Bush telling Americans that we are in another generational conflict between America and Islamic fanatics. This conflict started with the attacks on 9-11 and continued, according to Bush, with the Iraqi War. During that period there has been three elections. In each of those elections Bush and Rove have painted Democrats as weak on terror and not to be trusted with America's security. This resulted in capturing the Senate in 2002 and Bush's re-election in 2004. Take away the events of 9-11 and it is not at all obvious that Bush would have won re-election in 2004 or that the Republicans would still control the Congress in 2006.
Clearly, the Republican Party benefits politically from keeping the American public on a "war" footing. This is because they can paint "liberals" as people who don't understand the threat and are too naive to trust with America's security. This approach was used during the Cold War with a great deal of success and is being used now with regards to America's response to terrorism. Compare the rhetoric of 2006 with the language used by conservative Republicans during the Cold War. It is very similar language. Indeed, the political "father" of Bush and Rove is not Ronald Reagan, but Richard Nixon. Like Nixon, Bush does not heistate to demonize his political opponents or to question their loyalty to America.
All of this is not to say that Bush is totally cynical about the policies he advocates. Like any good salesman, he believes in his product. Like any good salesperson, however, his belief in the product coincides with his personal self-interest. Just like a good salesperson gets commissions from his or her sales, Bush gets political power from his. Thus, like a good salesperson, Bush's personal interest coincides with the successful pushing of his sales pitch, the "War on Terror."
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