"Bush is a lock."


That's me quoting myself. At Nick Gillespie's insistence, I am saying publicly what I have been repeating privately for a year, and doing so now, when the polling seems to look good for Kerry, so I can't be accused of capitalizing on the news. Just to reiterate: It doesn't matter how much gas costs, how poorly things are going in Iraq, what new torture memos surface, or whether there are new terror attacks inside our borders. John Kerry hasn't got a whore's chance in a convent, Bush is going to kick his ass all over the United States, and when we see the results in November, the idea that anybody ever thought Kerry had a prayer will seem as quaint and absurd as the brief flurry of "excitement" for Dukakis (or was it Kakdukis?) back in Old '88.

I realize that this isn't a particularly bold prediction, and of course if I'm wrong I'll just throw up my hands and chalk it all up to the mysteries of this great democracy we're privileged to live in. Nor is this one of these "predictions" that really expresses a heartfelt wish: Though I find Bush slightly (ever so slightly) less emetic than Kerry, he's a crook, a stumblebum, and a lazy, mirthless little prince, and any country that would re-elect him deserves every bad thing that will happen to it. If I have any degree of preference between the two candidates, the best word for it is the vaguely theological term velleity: the lowest level of volition, unaccompanied by any intention to act.

But I do have a reason for my prediction: When U.S. troops are in the field, the candidate perceived as more hawkish always wins. If you can find an instance where this was not the case, let me know. Since I suspect somebody will raise the counterexample of 1968, when Johnson supposedly had his presidency destroyed by a war many times more controversial than the current one, let me show how this election demonstrates my thesis dramatically: We'll never know how LBJ would have done in a general election, but in the event Nixon squeaked by Humphrey (at best a lukewarm antiwar prospect, but in style and substance clearly less hawkish than Nixon). Even in 1972, when public opinion had supposedly shifted decisively against the war and it was clear to all that we were going to lose, Nixon vivisected McGovern—just on the promise of losing it a little more slowly than McGovern would have.

Bush is a lock.