What do we tell the world?
Next Tuesday morning, before I will have had a chance to vote, I will be discussing US politics on the Spanish-language service of Radio France Internationale. I think (from her accent) that interviewer, Alexandra Pineida, must be Colombian, and the audience will include people throughout Latin America as well as in Spain. She and most of her listeners are astounded that Americans (that is, U.S. Americans) could re-elect (or actually elect for the first time) George W. Bush. She'll be calling me at 7 a.m. New York time, 1 p.m. in Paris, so we will not yet have any news on how our compatriots have in fact voted, but I hope to come up with something more than your usual indecisive pundit commentary. What can I say to foreigners, to help them make sense of a political campaign that seems to them just bizarre?

What would you like foreigners to understand about our process? Scotty Embree has helped already, by sending me an article about all the newspapers that have turned away from Bush, after backing him in 2000. That list sort of redeems at least one sector of the media from the accusation of idiocy. What else can we say, about a president who jokes and a vice president who snarls and denies obvious facts (Halliburton, the abandonment of the weapons dump, the non-connection between Saddam and international terror)? I'll be happy to see your suggestions: write me at gf@geoffreyfox.com.


Producing ignorance
A friend just forwarded to me this report by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, with some of the findings of a new study of the differing perceptions of Bush and Kerry supporters, based on polls conducted in September and October.
Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.
Disturbing but not surprising. On this same subject, I thought Gore's statement (full-page ad in today's NYT) was right on the mark. Gore is much better on paper than as a speaker, because he thinks things through.

Also, did you see the item a couple of days ago, that GWB may in fact have a slightly higher IQ than Kerry? (Based on analysis of National Guard & other tests from student days on both men -- actual IQ scores were not available.) This could be true. Playing dumb may be the smartest thing GWB has been doing. He has been very canny about advancing his extreme right-wing agenda.

However, neither one of them is as smart as Gore (or as Clinton, either, who was probably our smartest 20th century president). The issue isn't who has the more gray-matter cells, but who is more thoughtful -- and there, Kerry wins over Bush hands down (and Gore probably beats Clinton). The Democrats problem is that they (we) are appealing to other thoughtful people, while the GOP finds it expedient to bombard them with confusion and make 'em more and more ignorant. As Gore says (quoting Orwell), sooner or not much later, they're going to bump into reality -- like, on the battlefield.