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Can McCain win?
by Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

Conventional wisdom rules out chances of a Republican victory in the US elections, less than a year away. This is in no way a reflection on the qualities of its Presidential nominee, John McCain. With US economy in a huge slump, with the US army bogged down in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and with the tattered record of the Bush administration tainted by misinformation through its entire first term, the odds would be daunting for any candidate. Yet the prospects of a McCain victory cannot be ruled out. And the bleak prospect of an upset victory does not rest on the bitter war between Democratic hopefuls Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The next election will not be about John McCain but about George Bush. No amount of political artistry can wipe clean the vivid record of the Bush administration over the past seven years. McCain can lose or win only on the Republican administration's record over these last two terms. At present that record is zilch. Can it change miraculously to undo past failures and create a euphoric mood that allows McCain to win? 

This writer had not ruled out the possibility of some such miracle. His belief was based on what has been described as the Term Two Trauma of American presidencies: it is recalled that US Presidents in their second terms, with no worries about re-election, have often attempted to unshackle the constraints of the powerful vested interests that dominate US foreign policy. But either through design or accident, the effort each time was aborted by scandal. Nixon was crippled by Watergate in his second term. Clinton was weakened by the Monika Lewinsky scandal. It was conjectured that President Bush in his second term might succeed where his predecessors had failed. Sure enough, some leading architects of his first term agenda ' Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby and Karl Rove ' were axed one by one. Hard-nosed advisers who had served Papa Bush moved into key positions. Future developments therefore were identified by this writer ' developments that could bring Bush victory.

Two years ago, on March 20 2006, I wrote: "American policy has changed, although the American presidency has not. The George Bush mask remains intact. But the neo-conservative agenda favored by Big Business has been scuttled. Security concerns prevail over profit." Later, on July 3 the same year, it was pointed out that the Bush administration was pursuing policies to create "a new Middle East". Readers were advised therefore that Bush "may do nothing. He could do everything. So don't write him off. Not yet." What could President Bush do to turn the tide? 

Three major areas were identified. First, he had to bring peace to Iraq and stop body bags of US soldiers returning to America. For that a settlement with Shiite Iran to accommodate Shiite Iraq was essential. It was pointed out that America's nuclear crisis with Iran could be a smokescreen behind which a secret dialogue on the future settlement of Iraq was continuing. Secondly, a Palestine state at peace with Israel, to bury finally the main bone of contention in the Middle East for over half a century, had to be created. In the pursuit of this it was pointed out that the Bush administration compelled Israel to withdraw from Gaza, and allowed Hamas to contest the election although a secret opinion poll had informed the US State Department of a Hamas victory. Thirdly, the Al Qaeda had to be neutralized, and stable peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan had to be secured to end the war on terror. 

Recently when John McCain called on President Bush to seek endorsement for his nomination, Bush advised media reporters not to dismiss his remaining days as the President which he would finish 'with a sprint'. What does he hope to cover in his sprint? Consider all three areas identified above by this writer. 

An Arab online paper based in UK has reported that the secret US-Iran peace dialogue on Iraq has reached a critical, decisive stage. If clinched, Iraq would be guaranteed peace and Iran would emerge as the dominant power in the Middle East. It might be recalled that the secret links of the US with Iran have been deep through the past decades. The US armed Iran against Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war. It used Israel as the conduit for funding Iran, which has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, but does not practice any discrimination against Jews. The Arab news story gains credence from two radio interviews given by Bush and beamed into Iran, aimed at reaching out to the Iranian public on the Persian New Year Navroz. Earlier, Henry Kissinger, currently acting as the foreign policy advisor to Republican nominee John McCain, called for unconditional talks with Iran. That signified a major policy shift for Kissinger. 

Regarding Palestine the Annapolis Conference, comprising Arab nations and Israel, which endorsed an agreement to create Palestine state by the end of this year, has not yet been derailed. Contacts between both sides continue. 

Regarding the war on terror, the new Pakistan government has given clear indication of policy to separate the home grown Taliban from the foreign dominated Al Qaeda through a mix of military action and dialogue, offering autonomy to both the Pashtuns and the Baluch tribes. 

If President Bush achieved success in these three areas, or in two, or in even one, he could create euphoria that would dissolve public resentment against the earlier excesses of his administration. And if the foundation of a new Middle East is indeed laid, it would allow him to leave an unforgettable legacy for history. Senator McCain will be watching him with bated breath. 

How fast will George Bush sprint? 

More by :  Rajinder Puri
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