Kevin Drum has put together a wonderful chronology of the past week, and how it has combined into a sort of "perfect storm" leading to a Bush downfall. Some of it is simply unfortunate timing — unwelcome news coming at a bad time — and there wasn’t much Bush could have done about it. Some of it was because of Kerry, and some of it was self-inflicted by his own administration.
Tomorrow is the most important day of Bush’s political career. He doesn’t have to win the debate, but he has do enough to stop Kerry’s mo(mentum). Otherwise, it’s over. I think Bush can do it, but WILL he?
Thursday: George Bush gets his butt kicked by John Kerry in the first presidential debate.
Saturday: Partly due to Bush’s dismal debate performance, polls indicate that Kerry is catching up. Bush’s lead appears to have been reduced to 2-3 points.
Monday: Donald Rumsfeld admits that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any substantial ties to al-Qaeda. "To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two." After his statement is reported, he tries unsuccessfully to claim that he was "misunderstood."
Later Monday: The CIA agrees with Rumsfeld. The linchpin of the administration’s case for collaboration between Saddam and al-Qaeda has been Saddam’s alleged "harboring" of terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but a CIA report concludes that it probably didn’t happen. "The evidence is that Saddam never gave Zarqawi anything," said an official who read the report.
Tuesday: Paul Bremer admits that the administration made a big mistake by not having enough troops in Iraq. "The single most important change — the one thing that would have improved the situation — would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout" the occupation. When his statement becomes public, Bremer complains that his remarks were "off the record." For its part, the Bush administration tries to claim that Bremer was lying, but is forced to backtrack almost immediately when it becomes apparent that Bremer did ask for more troops as far back as July 2003.
Later Tuesday: Dick Cheney initially appears to fight John Edwards to a near draw in the vice presidential debate, but before long attention shifts to Cheney’s numerous and obvious lies during the debate. This is likely to be the consensus post-debate talking point.
Wednesday: Weapons inspector Charles Duelfer releases his final report. He says that Saddam Hussein destroyed all his WMD after 1991, had no WMD programs in place after that, and that his capacity to build WMD was actually deteriorating after 1998, not increasing.
Thursday: Polls show that Bush has lost nearly his entire lead. The race is now a dead heat. AP/Ipsos actually shows Kerry ahead. [And the Green Zone in Baghdad is starting to show signs of insecurity]