I stand by my earlier comment - folks committed to the success of the Iraqi Liberation Project simply do not accept Kerry as a plausible alternative. The bad news out of Iraq may leave us thinking that the project will be more difficult (or impossible); it may leave us thinking that Bush could not manage a successful beer-bash for thirsty sailors; but only of of the two candidates is convincingly committed to making this work.
However, Kerry's problem goes even deeper. A cold-blooded political strategist (aren't they all?) would attempt to position Kerry as Nixon to Bush's Johnson - Kerry will be presented as the man with the plan to redeem Bush's badly executed war and occupation. But does any Dem anywhere want to be Richard Nixon?
It is entirely likely that Kerry will drift past the Nixon-Humphrey race of 1968 and cast himself as McGovern 1972. Come home America - do we really expect Kerry to lead a long, possibly futile struggle to re-build Iraq? Under this theory, the debacle at Abu Grahib actually hurts Kerry. After all his talk about his Vietnam experience, we all know that he believed a morally corrupt Administration oversaw a war in which war crimes were the norm. If that is what he thought about American troops then, what does he think now? Ted Kennedy, the animating force behind the Kerry campaign, has ventured well into Vietnam quagmire rhetoric, and has drawn an equivalence between the US and Saddam Hussein. Can Kerry be far behind? His mantra - there is nothing wrong with the United States that can't be solved by what's right with the United Nations - is more popular with the NPR crowd than with the country as a whole.
Most Americans didn't want to believe then, and don't want to believe now, that we are the bad guys. Despite Kent State, Laos, and Kerry's moral outrage, the Republican carried 49 states in 1972 as "Peace With Honor" trumped "Come Home, America". If Kerry re-lives the role he played in 1971, we may see a similar result in 2004.
MORE: The Note tackled this yesterday in points (2) and (3).