In a hotly contested field, the most dismal awakening of my life took place yesterday morning, alone, hungover, in a hotel bedroom in Tel Aviv, when I found that the television was still burbling from the night before and that Don King, the infamous boxing promoter with the conviction for assault and the Van der Graaf Generator hair was on screen announcing to an appalled planet that the American people had awarded a second term of office to the cross-eyed Texan warmonger George Dubya Bush.
If ever there was a moment for burying your head in the many superfluous hotel pillows, and issuing a groan of self-pity, this was it.
Not four more years of a man so serially incompetent that he only narrowly escaped selfassassination by pretzel, and also managed to introduce American torturers to Iraqi jails. Who on earth, I moaned, can conceivably have supported this maniac with his monochrome Manichaean rhetoric that has done so much to encourage the nasty strain of anti-Americanism that now afflicts so much of the world?
Who did it? Who were the idiots who backed him, I whimpered, in that weak pre-breakfast state.
And then I remembered. I backed him, come to think of it. In fact, not only did I want Bush to win, but we threw the entire weight of The Spectator behind him. We wrote a magnificent leading article in which we recounted these well-known weaknesses of Dubya, and then set them beside the weaknesses of John Kerry: his air of Herman Munster gloom, his flip-floppiness over Iraq, his greater hostility to free trade, his love of higher taxes. We then closed our eyes and, in a tumultuous final paragraph, we exhorted the people of America to vote for Bush, as marginally the less undistinguished of two undistinguished alternatives.
It is well known that Spectator editorials can have an explosive effect, even among populations not normally thought of as avid readers. It may even be that we tipped the scales in Ohio, and there will always be part of my heart that suspects it was the Spec wot won it for Dubya.
But not all readers will be satisfied by this account, and will be wondering what other factors saved the President. A certain amount of mild tosh will be written this morning about the “lessons” for the Tories from the Republican victory, and the way British Conservatives need to become more like their hot-dang Bible-bashing church-going American cousins, and how we need to emulate the family values of the vast suburban flyover country that voted for Bush.
I am not certain that these qualities, however admirable, can be easily implanted into the brains of suburban Brits; but in any case, the championing of such attitudes was not the most important cause of the Bush triumph.
Continue reading Bush owes Blair – and must deliver