OCTOBER, 2005 will turn out to be the left's cruelest month since . . . well, in a long time. A couple of weeks in, it seemed so promising. October was going to be the month that would mark the meltdown of the loathed Bush presidency. Iraq was failing, gas prices were rising, a weak Supreme Court nominee was under assault, and the White House was under siege from a special prosecutor. What more could a Bush-hater want?
But it was a false dawn for the left. On October 15, the Iraqi people voted for the second time this year, and progress--slow and difficult--gradually became visible on the ground. The economy, it turned out, was chugging along at a 3.8 percent growth rate. Harriet Miers withdrew--and President Bush followed that foul ball with a home run in the impressive person of Judge Samuel Alito. And the special prosecutor produced only one indictment, and one that will lead no further than a trial focused on what Scooter Libby said or didn't say to three journalists.
This late October reversal means this for November: The left will get even more heated in its rhetoric, even more extreme in its attacks, even more willing to distort and demagogue. And this in turn means the Bush administration needs not just to play effective defense, but to go on the offense--making the case for the war, its necessity, and the prospects for victory; explaining the role of the Bush tax cuts in producing economic growth, and fighting to make those cuts permanent; winning the Alito vote in the Senate and the constitutional debate in the country; and counterattacking against the criminalization of conservatives.
It will be a more interesting end of the year than most of us expected.