Securing the swing states with presidential clout

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The scene at a campaign stump speech is an all-too familiar, all-too routine celebration of a candidate’s greatest virtues.

At President Bush’s events, a certain degree of “presidential pomp” is displayed — from helicopter landings to white-gloved Marines to playing “Hail to the Chief” and announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.”

All of these “incumbent advantages” are expected — after all, why wouldn’t the current president remind everyone who has held the office over the past four years?

Yet, the Bush administration, in its final pre-election push to drum up support for the incumbent, is going to unprecedented lengths and calling on unprecedented sources to drum up support for the incumbent.

Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s national security adviser, is giving a flurry of speeches in political battleground states during the closing days of the campaign.

Not to be outdone, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who regularly leaves Washington on official business, is giving nearly three-fifths of his speeches in 17 of the most hotly contested battleground states.

This wouldn’t be an issue, of course, if Rice’s and Ridge’s boss was not fighting tooth-and-nail for his job.

Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but unprecedented ones?

Rice, whose 68 speeches over the past four years have rarely removed her from D.C., will have made speeches in Ohio, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington state, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida (all swing states) by the end of the week, even though she had never spoken in any of these now-crucial states before May of this year.

Traditionally, national security advisers tend not to become involved in politics in an overt way, and for good reason — their main concern is much more important than the outcome of any election.

Ridge, who has maintained that his department would not become entrenched in politics, has held nearly half of his department’s public events in the states considered most hotly contested.

Coincidence? Or calculated political maneuvering?

Rice’s and Ridge’s concerns should lie with the safety and security of the people of the United States, not with the political security of the president and subsequently, the security of their own jobs.

Republicans will argue that, in a time of war, these officials are simply doing their duty: Addressing national security issues with the people it affects the most.

However, the timing and placement of their speeches seems quite suspicious, especially in the final week of pull-out-all-the-stops, partisan, presidential politics.

U-Wire, Oregon State University, The Daily Barometer