President Bush has been preoccupied by the "one state/two state" controversy boiling in the Middle East. I think he has more to fear from the "two state" situation developing here at home.
Traveling across the United States, covering the national campaigns, I am struck at the similarities between 1968 and 2004.
It is obvious that everywhere Bush goes, increasingly loud, angry crowds meet him. As conditions in Iraq deteriorate, Bush can expect vocal confrontations and bitter opposition in 2004.
The rise-to-power of presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean is indicative of the passion erupting and the power behind the perfect storm that could swamp and sink Bush.
Simply put, the dichotomy that was first popularized as the "Blue State/Red State" schism between Bush and Gore in 2000 has never gone away. The red states are retreating into the cocoon of super-patriotism; the blue states are ready for rebellion. A collision in 2004 is inevitable.
2004 is different from 1968 in that we do not have the draft to energize college students. But media and communications conditions then were primitive compared to today. Flash crowds can assemble at a moment’s notice. Internet fund raising can empower a candidate virtually overnight. We have a movement in search of a mission. President Bush has provided the moment.
It was disingenuous of Secretary of State Powell to claim personal knowledge of conditions in Iraq, when he only visited Baghdad briefly inside a massive security cocoon. When was the last time a senior American walked the streets of Baghdad? Probably never. Using arrogance as an excuse, Americans have increasingly isolated themselves in Iraq, and become the new dictator of the Middle East. "Occupation" is no longer an incorrect term for our presence. Even the Wall Street Journal, Bush’s most reflexive supporter, ran a front-page column this week on the fears and hostility created by American military desaparaceidos. Paul Bremer’s regime is indistinguishable from that of the South American strongman.
Random killings, mistaken operations, all lead to the conclusion that we are our own worst enemy. It is not going to improve. The Administration has apparently tried to suppress a survey/poll of Iraqis that indicates we have more to fear from resentment at American arrogance than we do from Saddam’s remnants or the "Islamic militants" who loom large in the Bush-Cheney flat screen montage.
The hotel where I stayed in April, when it was safe and open, is now an armed camp, secured behind barbed wire, sandbags and fortress-like protections. I saw it coming; I was unhappy. And now I know why. Being "protected" in Baghdad exposes you to more risk, not less.
The unstable situation abroad crates the conditions for a perfect storm here at home. It will come. Republicans thought they could exploit patriotism by holding their convention in New York City. The New York convention is likely to become a disaster for Bush.
America is once again metastasizing into two nation states, a coastal republic of free thinkers and tolerant livers, and a more isolated and insular inland regime.
Will Bush wake up before it is too late? Place your bets.