Monday, November 06, 2006

How can this be?

From today's nytimes.com:

Bush Trumpets Iraq Verdict to Rally Support

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 — President Bush on Sunday seized on the conviction of Saddam Hussein as a milestone in Iraq, seeking to rally Republican voters with the issue of national security as some polls suggested that his party might be making gains in the final hours of the campaign.
How can the conviction of Saddam Hussein have any effect on voters' choices at this point? Isn't this just the realization of something that was a foregone conclusion? In order for this to make a difference in your vote, I figure that the following need to be true:
  1. You feel that the conviction of Saddam Hussein will have positive effects on the situation in Iraq, and
  2. You felt there was some chance that he was going to be acquitted and walk free.
  3. Combined, these two things are enough to push you over the margin. That is, either you were really on the fence, or you think this makes a huge difference, or you thought there was a big chance he'd be acquitted.
Otherwise, this news has no impact on your voting opinions, because it doesn't provide any new information or the realization of any uncertain outcome. I think it was pretty clear from the time Hussein was captured that he was essentially done and thus finding out that he's been sentenced to death is really not big, important news. That is, it doesn't tell me anything new.

If the news was that Osama Bin Laden had been captured or killed, or the top Al-Qaeda leaders around the world had been rounded up, then that's one thing and could conceivably convince people that things are going better than they had previously thought. But how does the conviction of a man that was captured a long time ago and clearly was never going to be a threat again change anyone's opinion of the Bush Administration?

I just don't get it. As an economist, who really wants to believe in rational updating and information processing, any evidence that Hussein's conviction is swinging voters is extremely puzzling. Either you like the way the Bush Administration and Republican Congress have been handling things or you don't. I fail to understand how this could affect that in any material way.

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