Monday, 7 July 2003

The Price On Bush's Head

A successful war against Iraq couldn't guarantee his father a second term as US president so, with more than $400 million set aside to fund his re-election campaign, George W Bush isn't taking any chances

Back in the halcyon days when Richard Milhous Nixon was preparing his war on the constitution of the United States, loyal Republicans created a campaign group to preserve the American way and keep their man in office. The Committee to Re-Elect the President, as it was known, had several notable features aside from its interesting acronym (Creep), many of them involving novel ways to break the law. It had, nevertheless, one overriding purpose: to raise money, lots of money, clean or not. Creep was immodestly successful.

Money is the tainted blood product of the American body politic, after all. Every one knows it. No-one gets to be president unless he is a millionaire many times over or happens to be friendly with several multi-millionaires. No-one has a political profile without being able to buy the advertising that will accuse the opposition of buying their way to office. A Senate seat these days costs $5 million minimum. So what's a poor Texas boy to do?

If the faux-Texan boy is George W Bush, the first answer to the question is to stop being poor or avoid that unAmerican disease in the first place. The second answer is to raise so much money from people with cause to be grateful for a Bush presidency as to render every possible opponent dirt-poor by comparison. In some quarters in the US this is known, these days, as 'market democracy'.

Thus, in order to win the presidency in 2000, Bush spent in the region of $100m. This time around, simply to win his way through the primaries -- where he will meet no Republican opposition -- Bush-Cheney 04 Inc. is shooting for $170m. Then, with next year's August party convention out of the way, the real presidential campaign -- and fund-raising -- can begin. That, it is thought, should amount to around $250m and change.

For the purposes of comparison, Bill Clinton and the challenger Bob Dole together spent $232m on the presidential race in 1996, and even that 'achievement' was hugely controversial. Bush's fund-raising target for the primaries, meanwhile, exceeds the inflation-adjusted total spent collectively by Reagan (1980 and 1984); Bush senior (1988 and 1992) and Dole (1996). Junior, just to show he means business, has also already raised more than the nine declared Democratic candidates for the presidency put together.

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