It's George Bush in '92 - If
Godfrey Sperling. Godfrey Sperling, Jr., is the Monitor's senior Washington columnist., The Christian Science Monitor
A UNITED STATES victory in Iraq will inevitably affect the outcome of the 1992 presidential election. Unless the victory is perceived by the public to have been too costly, George Bush will remain as he is now, a very popular president, and very likely to be swept back into office.
A Panama or a Granada has only a short-lived political impact. But this confrontation in the Gulf has reached "big-war" proportions, with all Americans caught up in its progress. Even if it ends successfully within a few more weeks, it will dominate the thinking of voters through the next election.
George Bush was relatively unknown to many people when he was elected in 1988. With a major war victory under his belt he definitely will be a "somebody," a somebody that potential Democratic candidates will be slow to take on.
I must add that several new political undercurrents will be active in '92 and years to come, affecting election results in unpredictable ways. I'm talking about the demise of the "communism issue," which fueled the right wing for so many years. Where will the communist haters of yesterday go?
There are many Americans who, like Pat Buchanan, call themselves "neo-conservatives" and sound like the isolationists of World War II in their evaluation of the Gulf war as a war that the US should have refrained from entering. But these "neo-conservatives" are basically hawkish. Their reservations about this war - and about Bush for taking the US into it - will only surface again if the war drags on with high American casualties. Otherwise, they will be giving their support to Bush in '92.
Then there are the Democrats who were against taking the US into war. They loyally back the troops. But let this confrontation take on the appearance of another Vietnam and they will rise again with vehemence and anger.
Obviously, if the US is fighting a "no-win" war in the Gulf a year from now and large shipments of body bags are coming home, the Democrats could field a candidate who might win. Under those circumstances, Bush will be seen by some as a sure one-term president. …