Shribman speculates on four more Bush years

by Linzi Sheldon | 11/10/04 6:00am

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Shribman '76 commented on the recent election and speculated about what Americans can expect from President Bush's second term Tuesday night in speech titled "The New Architecture of American Politics."

Shribman, executive editor of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, began by referring to observations he made Sunday in a column where he focused on Bush's liberation from the "sniff of illegitimacy that pervaded his first term."

According to Shribman, Bush is now free to pursue the new and influential brand of conservatism he has created, applying intuition to a world of specialized knowledge. He cited Bush's use of preemptive strikes in eliminating threats to U.S. security. Both candidates agreed on this policy, an example of the two parties quietly changing their views on when wars begin, Shribman said.

He predicted that the international community would begin to reach out to the newly-validated president, who in turn would attempt to reestablish international relationships, albeit awkwardly and reluctantly.

Shribman outlined a few key factors in the presidential race that ultimately led to Bush's victory. A main factor, he said, is that Bush doesn't merely appeal to the Christian right; he is a part of the Christian right. Shribman pointed out that Republicans have turned around the evangelical vote, which generally sided with the Democrats until 1980.

According to Shribman, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry missed an important opportunity to appeal to Catholics, a key religious group. He said that Kerry had the chance to argue on his own behalf and explain how his views are entirely consistent with Catholic doctrine.

"It would have been a breathtaking moment," Shribman said. "It's a sin of omission that he didn't give that speech. I think candidates in this atmosphere have to give speeches like that."

Kerry's biggest shortcoming, however, was his failure to capitalize on the gender gap as previous Democratic candidates have, Shribman said. While Bush won the male vote, as Republicans almost always do, Kerry's advantage among women was a negligible 51 to 48 percent.

Shribman admitted that he might be the only American who believes the president will move to protect, rather than undermine, social security in his second term. Citing Bush's tendencies to adhere to his word, he predicted that Bush would not want to shake the confidence of the largest voting bloc in American history.

In a separate interview with The Dartmouth, Shribman opined on the nature of the election. He characterized the election as one of mobilization rather than persuasion, with neither Kerry nor Bush changing voters' minds in the last few days. The key was that the Bush campaign was better able to mobilize its apparently larger number of troops.Shribman also discussed an additional reason for Kerry's loss that was unrelated to the policy stances of the Democratic Party.

"In the end, John Kerry ran as John Kerry, which of course was his best shot, but he's someone who thinks in nuances for an age when the nuance is pass," Shribman said.

"Ultimately, more people in their gut trusted a man who himself is often ruled by his gut," he added.