Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Happy Days Are Near Again

[[P O L I T I C S]] * For those of us waiting impatiently to cheer the entry of a more competent, less ideologically motivated, and more honestly compassionate U.S. president into the Oval Office, every day’s new allowance of bewildering or downright disheartening political tales can be hard to take.

George W. Bush bases his foreign policy decisions on his religious faith? Republicans are trying to turn immigrants into criminals, not only in Mexican border states such as Arizona, but nationally as well? (No wonder American streets have been filled with protesters this week.) Bush isn’t satisfied with the carnage in Iraq, now he wants to launch a war on Iran as “his legacy”? Clark Kent Ervin, the former Homeland Security inspector general, was pressured to “tone down” his criticism of domestic security failures in the months prior to the 2004 presidential election? A probe growing from the conviction last year of U.S. Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-California) on bribery charges has opened up a GOP prostitution scandal and brought the CIA’s executive director, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, under scrutiny? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), so highly regarded under President Bill Clinton, has now been sufficiently enfeebled by incompetent management and so demonized after its failures during and after Hurricane Katrina, that the Senate wants to scrap it altogether?

Is it any wonder that we can’t open a newspaper or Web site these days without groaning? Yet as Bush’s lame-duck quack becomes ever clearer and more prominent, there are reasons to be optimistic again.

It gives me hope ... that Bush’s poll ratings are tanking, after years of their being falsely pumped up by overly favorable media reports of his performance. The latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies assessment finds the prez eking out an embarrassing 36 percent approval rating--his lowest level yet recorded in that particular poll. Similarly, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that only 34 percent of Americans approve of what the prez is doing in office, “two points under his previous low.” And a fresh CBS News survey shows Bush with a 33 percent rating, his numbers being dragged down by skyrocketing domestic gas prices and the worsening situation in Iraq. All these figures follow last week’s CNN poll, which pegs Bush at a measly 32 percent approval. Republicans must be praying overtime, in hopes that Dubya’s popularity doesn’t fall into the 20s before they have to face voters again in the November midterm elections.

It gives me hope ... that recent polls also find voters saying--by double-digit margins--that they’d prefer to see Democrats in charge of Congress after November.

It gives me hope ... that D.C. journalists have their frickin’ panties in a twist over Stephen Colbert’s appearance at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Robert A. George, a New York Post editorial writer and former senior writer for Newt Gingrich, opines in The Huffington Post that Colbert “simply sucked” and that most of his 15-minute routine was “really forgettable.” Pundits appearing on the FOX morning program Fox and Friends contended that Colbert’s performance went “over the line,” as far as making fun of their favorite leader, and that it was “not very funny.” U.S. News and World Report quotes a Bush aide as saying that the prez is “angry,” “ready to blow” over his evisceration in front of the Washington, D.C., press establishment. But I agree with Salon’s Michael Scherer, who remarked yesterday that “Political Washington is accustomed to more direct attacks that follow the rules. We tend to like the bland buffoonery of Jay Leno or insider jokes that drop lots of names and enforce everyone’s clubby self-satisfaction. ... Similarly, White House spinmeisters are used to frontal assaults on their policies, which can be rebutted with a similar set of talking points. But there is no easy answer for the ironist. ... So it’s no wonder that those journalists at the dinner seemed so uneasy in their seats. They had put on their tuxes to rub shoulders with the president. ... They invited Colbert to speak for levity, not because they wanted to be criticized.” Yet criticize, he did. In the most pointed but understated way possible, assuming the narrow-minded, unwavering political persona of a right-wing commentator. His barbs hit hard, not only at Bush but also at the smug majority of D.C. journalists, because they have been complicit in foisting upon the American public the illusion that the Bush regime deserves attention and obeisance because it is all-powerful and all-knowing, when in fact the exact opposite is becoming more obvious by the day. But of course, if Bush is a joke, then how does that make the minor-celebrity inkslingers attentive to his every mangled statement look? Not so good, eh?

It gives me hope ... that while many members of the so-called mainstream media remain afraid to call Bush on his repeated hypocrisies and double-standards, others--often in the blogosphere--make sure to point out when the White House is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Case in point: The prez’s ludicrous insistence that the American national anthem should be sung only in English, not in Spanish--an opinion that Senate Republicans are now trying to enforce with legislation. But as Think Progress so helpfully points out, Bush himself sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish during his 2000 presidential campaign. Does the Republican Party really believe it can attract Hispanic voters by marginalizing them for their language?

It gives me hope ... that a GOP plan to mail out $100 checks to Americans, as a way to allay public anger over gas prices (and, perhaps, prevent voters from punishing Republicans for their failure to head off the increases), is being roundly rejected. The New York Times reports that voters have phoned or e-mailed GOP senators to ridicule the rebate as “a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November.” The Times quotes an unnamed Republican senatorial aide saying his boss’s constituents have asked, “Do you think we are prostitutes? Do you think you can buy us?” Adding insult to injury, buffoonish Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) has now had to turn tail on this bribery idea, because U.S. oil companies, which would have been taxed to pay for the rebates, don’t want to cooperate. And we all know who controls both this White House and Congress, don’t we.

It gives me hope ... to see 10 states (including California, New York, and Massachusetts) taking the anti-environment Bush administration to court in order to “toughen mileage regulations for sport utility vehicles and other trucks.” While the Busheviks remain in deep denial over the dire consequences of global warming, and insist that drilling the hell out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the only way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil sources, these states are defying the administration’s “wisdom” on a fuel-economy policy that substitutes ideological rhetoric for common sense.

It gives me hope ... that the White House is being forced to release logs showing how many times convicted Republican “superlobbyist” Jack Abramoff visited with administration officials, including Bush. Afraid of being tainted by association with Abramoff, a former friend of Tom DeLay who raised at least $100,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign, outgoing White House press secretary “Stonewall Scotty” McClellan once told reporters that “the President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him”--a claim that Time magazine subsequently proved to be bogus. Now, thanks to a lawsuit brought by the public interest group Judicial Watch, the administration must “produce records of Abramoff's visits from January 1, 2001, to the present.” The logs are something short of a smoking gun; but they may provide information about just how willing to Republican White House was to craft legislation favorable to Abramoff’s high-paying clients.

And it gives me hope ... to see that Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the White House’s CIA leak scandal (aka Plamegate), has Karl Rove in his crosshairs. “Turd Blossom,” as Dubya calls him, has been a major suspect in the “outing” of former CIA agent Valerie Plame almost since the beginning, but when Fitzgerald first closed his noose about the White House last October, it was I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who found himself indicted for lying and obstruction of justice. No charges were filed against Rove. However, following Rove’s grand jury testimony last week--the fifth time he has been summoned before the grand jury--the press reported that the White House deputy chief of staff (recently reassigned from day-to-day policy coordination to help arrest the flow of GOP blood in November) was “more worried, not less, that he’s going to get indicted.” The New York Times says Fitzgerald “is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks whether to bring perjury charges” against the man described as “Bush’s brain.” If Rove is indicted, that would not only steal time away from his formulating a face-saving Republican campaign message, but make it harder for the GOP to duck responsibility for having created a “culture of corruption” inside and outside the nation’s capital.

As essayist Jean Kerr once said, “Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” And, like so many other Americans, I have been feeling awfully pessimistic for a long time now. I’m ready for a change.

READ MORE:Falling Through the Floor,” by Charlie Cook (The Cook Political Report); “Is It Time?” by Frank Dwyer (The Huffington Report); “A Different Kind of Discouraging Poll for Bush,” by Steve Benen (The Carpetbagger Report).

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