I think Bush is going to benefit from the Saudi car bombings. I've seen a number of politicians attain Man on a White Horse status -- President Reagan, Mayors Koch and Giuliani -- and the public admires them even when the very evil they oppose has a moment of triumph. If a horrible, headline-grabbing crime happened on David Dinkins's watch, it was his fault; if it happened while Koch or Giuliani was mayor, the focus was on the strongman mayor's inspirational outrage, not on what might have been done to prevent the crime in the first place. The terrorists Reagan never vanquished and the budget deficits he worsened were never considered a black mark on his presidency because America knew he was on his steed and riding to the rescue, even if the rescue never came.
Bush is on the white horse now. I think the more terrorism there is, the more popular he's likely to become, at least in the immediate future. Fox News reports on a speech he gave today in Indiana:
"The ruthless murder" of American citizens and others "remind us that the war on terror continues," Bush told a rousing crowd. "These despicable acts were committed by killers whose only faith is hate and the United States will find the killers and they will learn the meanings of American justice … We will be patient. We will be relentless."
And he added this, secure in the knowledge that his audience had no idea how absurd his bravado was:
"Anytime anyone attacks our fellow citizen, we'll be on the hunt and we'll find them and they'll be brought to justice. Just ask the Taliban."
Yeah -- just ask them.