Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005
Some call it "second termitis" – that affliction that seems to beset all re-elected presidents.
But that usually happens later in a president's second term – and usually less severely.
Not since President Richard Nixon's Watergate demise have we seen a presidency – just nine months after GW Bush's inauguration – literally collapse from within.
The latest AP/Ipsos poll – taken last week of 1,000 adult voters – shows that only 28 percent believe the country is on the "right" track; a whopping 66 percent believe we're on the "wrong" track.
And only 39 percent give the president a positive job approval rating – the lowest of his presidency in this poll.
But the big story in this poll is the cracking of George W. Bush's once solid base: he has lost 20 percent of white evangelical men, more GOP women, and doubts are creeping into the conservative wing of the Republican coalition.
Clearly the Harriet Miers decision – just one week ago – was a massive political blunder; forget her legal qualifications, we're talking here about Bush's political strength – or lack thereof.
Picking Miers has unleashed anger on the Right
a heretofore solid base for literally any Bush decision. And with that anger comes confusion, resentment
and the inevitable Bush Family Behavior: payback for any one who dares to criticize any Bush decision.
(That is the genesis of the ongoing Plame Leak Investigation: Joseph Wilson's op-ed piece criticizing Bush's assertions in his State of the Union speech caused the White House to have to "pay him back" by attacking him. It's the Bush Family credo.)
And if Bush starts attacking fellow conservatives, then the whole thing threatens to come tumbling down around him.
Underneath it all is the festering sore of an Iraq War that is going badly – despite the poppycock put out by Mr. Bush and his minions. Let me tell you a so-far-untold story from this past summer:
A print reporter was given private time in Iraq with CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid. The general spoke on complete background. He told this reporter that "we cannot win militarily here in Iraq. The best we can do is to hold it where it is until the Iraqis take over."
Yet – in an eery reminder of Vietnam – General Abizaid did not say the same thing publicly to the Congress when he subsequently testified. On that occasion he painted – undoubtedly at the White House's behest
a rosy picture of imminent military success and Iraqi military progress.
(In fact, after three and a half years of our occupation there are barely 3,000 Iraqi soldiers we deem capable of fighting for their country.)
If our military leaders are telling two different stories – one for public consumption and another in a CYA off-the-record session with a reporter – then we are fooling ourselves. This is a war that is a fraud from the top down. And it is our troops who are suffering for it.
From the first day, the entire Iraq Campaign has been a typical case of "who cares about the troops?" – from inadequate troop levels to insufficient body armor and vehicle armor.
Iraq is the single biggest factor eating away at the Bush presidency. Gas prices, illegal immigration and other issues are hurting, too, but Iraq is the one constant that is undercutting what is left of Bush's credibility.
Prior to last week, the only people left who believed a word from GW Bush were conservatives; but the joke of Harriet Miers as "the most qualified person to be on the Supreme Court" has now begun to erode the president's credibility on the Right.
And once he loses the conservatives, he is a total goner as president.
With three years and three months left in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush faces a bleak remainder of his presidency; so, too, does the GOP, which has lost much credibility with its fiscal profligacy, sloppy Katrina spending and panoply of scandals.
The Republican Party has – at the top – become lazy, arrogant, ego-driven, fat, dumb and self-satisfied. It had better get its act in gear – and soon – or else it will be destroyed – from within as well as from without.