January 31, 2004 [LINK]

Kerry is close to clinching it

The way things stand, it will take a minor miracle for Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, or John Edwards to pull off a big enough victory in Tuesday to stave off the effective confirmation of John Kerry as the Democratic nominee in this Tuesday's elections. Edwards denies contemplating it of course, but he would make a very attractive running mate. The fact that his wife let pass the opportunity to repeat the denial while being interviewed on The Today Show suggests that Edwards may just be thinking along those lines. Given his combat experience in Vietnam, Kerry would be a strong candidate against Bush. As today's Washington Post reports, however, he gets a lot of his funding from special interest lobbyists, in contrast to his reformist pretensions. Furthermore, his elitism would make it hard to mobilize a grass-roots populist challenge to Bush based on pocketbook issues, while his credentials in foreign policy are undermined by his opposition to war against Iraq in 1991. Very few people question the wisdom of that momentous decision any more. To win, Kerry would need a major infusion of charisma and political savvy.

The Bush administration has revised upward its estimate of how much the proposed Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost over the first ten years, from $400 million to $534 million. In my view, any such long-term estimates are nothing more than ballpark guesses. I wish budget debates would focus on single-year numbers, which are much less subject to myriad contingencies. As for this particular proposal, more publically-subsidized insurance will only feed the fires of health care inflation, which is already raging out of control. In political terms, this initiative has been heralded as another stroke of Karl Rove's genius, robbing the Democrats of an issue, but it could very well backfire if the White House doesn't face up to the implications for the deficit. A lot of Republicans have bought into the myth from the Reagan years that "deficits don't matter." Well, it depends. If you're borrowing trillions of dollars to provide the means for a decisive victory in a high-stakes contest such as the Cold War, mortgaging the future might indeed pay off. Few people expect such a clear-cut victory in the "war on terrorism," however. The end result of Bush's fiscal imprudence might be to hasten the rise of China as a rival superpower...

NOTE: This is a "post facto" blog post, taken from the pre-November 2004 archives.