Lucky, lucky Americans.
You may be wondering how I can say this when your economy is in the toilet, the war in Iraq is a disaster, Afghanistan is unravelling and there is no obvious end in sight.
Well, one thing is obviously ending soon: the Bush presidency.
Can George Dubya Bush be as stupid as he sounds? People have argued that you have to be smart to get to be president of the US. However, we have some contrary precedents. Not only was Ronald Reagan not exceptionally intellectually gifted, but he was sliding into Alzheimers. To what extent his trademark ad-libs were carefully scripted and the property of well organized reminders we'll probably never know, but that he used cue cards extensively and could be totally incoherent without them has been widely reported.
Look at Bush's record on Iraq. The ostensible reason for the war was weapons of mass destruction. WMDs of course are not a new issue, so why the urgency? Because Bush somehow connected Saddam's alleged WMDs to 9/11. What's the connection? If Al-Qaeda somehow got their hands on WMDs, there would be big trouble. Well, maybe. That part makes some sort of sense. But why would Saddam give an Islamist organization WMDs when he is one of their natural enemies? Some of the enmity between the US and Saddam would have pushed him closer to Al-Qaeda but would Saddam have really contemplated giving such dangerous weapons to an organization fundamentally opposed to his style of government? It's unlikely to say the least.
The more obvious explanation is that Bush's inner circle with their oil connections saw it as a hostile takeover of one of the world's biggest oil resources. That they saw the whole thing in terms of a minimal-cost war, with fewer ground troups and a smaller post-invasion effort than most experts considered reasonable is an indication of a closed mindset with limited objectives in mind.
So, yes. I do think there's a case that Bush is not that smart, and is there primarily because he has powerful backers.
So why the “lucky” thing?
Because none of the frontrunners are nearly that stupid. While they may have widely differing positions on some issues like how to get out of Iraq and how to run the economy, they are all candidates of substance. Not only the election, but the final stages of the primaries are shaping up to be a great contest.
None of this of course eases the short-term pain of the downhill slide of the economy and the continuing disaster in Iraq, but an end is indeed in sight. I don't know exactly what it will be because the candidates have different takes, and there are no obvious answers to some of the hard problems up ahead – but at least they are candidates with the potential to take them on. And it seems unlikely that whoever wins will carry on with the Bush approach to climate change denial.
So, not just lucky Americans – lucky rest of the world too.