Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Can’t You Hear the Quacking?

[[F A I L U R E S]] * Although George W. Bush keeps insisting that he has plenty of political capital left to spend, and much to do during his last two and a half years in the White House (“I’m not through yet, you know,” he said last month), CBS News editorial director Dick Meyer believes the prez is already sprouting lame-duck tail feathers. He writes:

The great impulse of the punditocracy right now is to look at President Bush’s swelling problems with the public and his party in the context of the elections coming up in November and then in 2008. Big mistake.

Short of another disaster on the scale of 9/11, George Bush no longer has the power, credibility or ability to effectively govern for the rest of his term in office. Contrary to what you hear on television, governing remains more important than campaigning. Government is more important than elections--to the extent the two can be differentiated anymore.

Bush’s realm of efficacy will be limited to areas where he can make unilateral decisions, mostly in war and foreign policy. The
tax cuts that oozed through Congress last week may well be his last “significant” piece of domestic legislation; I put quotations around significant because they are, in fact temporary. The entire menu of Bush tax tinkering is set to expire in 2010 on someone else’s watch, an apt metaphor for this administration.
Meyer opines that “The Bush administration is now locked in a triple-hammer hold that would defeat Houdini.” The prez’s job-approval ratings are in utter freefall; “Senate and House Republicans are in almost open warfare” over legislation to curtail the flow of illegal immigrats; and the GOP’s usually faithful Christian-right base is threatening to withhold its support during this fall’s midterm elections unless Congress steps up the war on same-sex marriage, obscenity, and abortion rights. Furthermore, Meyer writes, “[a]n influential pocket of conservatives that doesn’t have social issues at the front of its agenda is equally irritated and equally vocal. A fine example is Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist long influential in the party, who has just written a book called Impostor that skewers this administration for its deficits and unwillingness to deal with the great looming crises in entitlement programs.”

What makes all of this truly disastrous, says Meyer, “is that George Bush has at his disposal none--none--of the tools presidents have used to turn bad situations around: public support, party support or skilled statecraft. He’s a lame duck less than two years in to his second term. You are not being governed.” And that’s not good, no matter at which point on the political spectrum you fall. Thanks to a combination of incompetence, arrogant deception, thirst for power, and lack of concern about such annoying things as natural disasters, Bush has steered the United States into a position of economic weakness, cast over its once-proud population a pall of fear and paranoia (who believes the prez when he claims there are limits to his domestic surveillance program?), created an environment in which journalists feel intimidated and their sources worry about exposure, and turned the world’s opinion against America. That, as Meyer contends, the prez has no moral or political authority left to turn things around, even if he had the impetus or courage to do so, is nothing short of depressing. Must everything be left to the next president to fix? It took Democrat Bill Clinton most of two terms to fix the economic mess he’d been left by Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. How long will it take the next U.S. president to restore public optimism about this country’s future and faith in the White House’s openness and honesty, as well as mend the broken international ties Bush leaves behind?

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