The recent U.S. elections are now a model for the January elections in Iraq. Political parties are sending their advisers from Baghdad to Washington to learn what the Bush people did right.
I talked to Abu Ben Rov, the architect of the Sunni Triangle Party, who is here studying the election results.
"What have you learned?" I asked him.
"Moral values are the most important issue if we want to win an election," he replied. "We're going to appeal to the religious right."
"Good thinking," I said.
"We're coming out against same-sex marriage. We're going to say that the marriage of a man to a woman -- or several women -- is the only acceptable union. Gays will be called a pox on Iraqi society. If it worked for the evangelicals in your country, it will work in ours."
"What else are you going to do?" I asked.
"We're coming out anti-choice. Anyone who has an abortion will be considered an infidel."
"Does that mean you'd outlaw Planned Parenthood?"
"More than that. We're going to ban it in our constitution."
"Did you learn a lot about dirty tricks from us?"
"How could we miss? We're going to accuse the other side of being soft on terrorism and flip-flopping on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. And we're going to flood Muslims who are still on the fence with e-mails telling them a vote for the other side means a vote for Saddam Hussein," Ben Rov said.
"You really picked up a lot of tricks."
"We have an ancient saying in Iraq: Winning is everything."
"What are you going to do about the liberals in your country during your campaign?"
"We're going to write them off. They are politically incorrect on everything, including Iraqi social security."
"I imagine the youth vote will affect your election."
"We're organizing them right now. The other side is recruiting rock bands. We think we can attract more votes by lowering the drinking age to 18."
"Besides moral values, what will the people be voting on?"
"The war. We want our boys to be home before next Ramadan."
"And the economy?"
"We will promise jobs."
"How are you going to do that?"
"Who says that after the election you have to keep your promises?"
"Is your candidate going to make an issue of homeland security?"
"It won't be a big issue. Our people know that it is as safe in Samarra as it is in Tikrit."
I asked, "What role is Allah going to play in this campaign?"
"A very good one. We won't make any major decisions before checking with Allah."
"What about the martyr vote?"
Ben Rov replied: "It's big, and many of the martyrs are still in the undecided column. We have to get to them before they die and make sure they send in their absentee ballots."
"Have you learned anything from our attack ads?" I asked him.
"I couldn't miss. I'm going to introduce negative advertising to the Middle East. In the past, Arabs have never resorted to name-calling, but your elections showed us the way. You can't have a free and open democracy without smearing your opponent. And if they hear them long enough, the Iraqi voters will believe our lies."
"You're a quick learner," I said.
"How else are we going to win a mandate?"
(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services