the Wheels Coming Off the Bush Bandwagon?
by Richard Prasad
Much has been written and about the stratospheric job approval
rating of George W. Bush. The Bush Administration has been
universally praised for its ability to stay 'on message' they
are able to present a united front, with relatively few press
leaks. Democrats, on the other hand, have been chided by at
least one newspaper as cowering when confronted by the President's
There are issues that have come up lately that threaten to
diminish the President's popularity and expose the long standing
fissures within the Republican Party infrastructure.
The first of these issues is the President's decision to
dump nuclear waste in Nevada. On February 15th, the Bush Administration
authorized a plan that would dump 77 tons of nuclear waste
into Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The decision by Bush was roundly
criticized by Nevada State officials both Democratic and Republican.
According to the Washington Post, Republican Governor Kenny
Guinn vowed to oppose the project, and Republican Senator
John Ensign said that voter backlash from this decision could
cost the Republicans one or two house seats in the upcoming
midterm elections in November. With the Republicans holding
a slim six seat majority in the House of Representatives,
this decision could lead to a Democratic majority in both
houses of Congress.
Republicans stand to lose a lot more than that with their
support of this dumping plan. There is a train of thought,
popular in Republican dominated Western states, that is deeply
disdainful of Federal involvent in Western land decisions.
This issue manifested itself in the Clinton raids on Waco
and Ruby Ridge. Many people saw the raids as necessary, but
many Western conservatives saw these raids as an infringement
of private property rights. If the same people who protested
the Clinton raids see the Bush Administration's nuclear waste
storage plan as a similar infringment on Western land by the
federal government, then the Bush Administration will be in
trouble, not only in Nevada, but throughout the Western states.
Another thorny issue that the Bush Administration will have
to deal with is their Guest Worker or Amnesty program for
illegal Mexican aliens. According to a February 15th article
by the Washington Times, the Bush Administration is pushing
Congress to address their amnesty or guest worker proposals
by the time Bush meets with Mexican President Vincente Fox
in Monterey Mexico on March 22nd.
This exposes Bush to a struggle with Nativists and xenophobes
in his own party. The fear and mistrust of foreigners has
always existed in America, but is especially prevalent in
America today because of the terrorist attacks of September
11th. There is a mood to kick everyone who looks and talks
differently out of the country, and no one gives voice to
this mood any better than former Nixon speechwriter and current
xenophobe, Patrick J. Buchanan, whose book "Death of the West"
has spent much too many weeks in the bestseller list.
Why would Bush pick a fight with members of his own party
and others on an unpopular issue such as illegal immigration?
Some would say that Bush genuinely likes Hispanics. Maybe
this is true, his sister-in-law is Hispanic, after all. Some
more cynical observers would say that it helps the Republican
party dispose of its all white male country club appearance.
Maybe that is true too. Still more cynical observers say that
Bush is trying to curry favor with his business cronies, and
the guest worker program is the perfect way to provide corporate
America with cheap labor to exploit. This is the explanation
that rings most true, given the Bush Administration's many
and varied business alliances.
Another troublesome issue that developed recently for the
Bush Administration was Colin Powell's appearance on MTV.
Powell, Bush's Secretary of State said that he was in favor
of condom use by sexually active teens. To most Americans,
especially young Americans, this would seem like a perfectly
And the Bush Administration, or at least Ari Fleisher, seemed
to back Powell up. Christian conservatives were not amused.
Gary Bauer, President of the conservative group American Values,
called condoms "bad medicine" for America's youth. Many other
Christian conservatives joined in the chorus.
The danger for the Bush administration from Powell's comments
is clear. Those comments serve to alienate Christian conservatives,
by far George W. Bush's largest constituency. Enough comments
like Powell's, and the members of the Bible Belt will sit
on their hands, and not vote for anyone. That could portend
more trouble for Bush than any other issue.
Recent developments in Afghanistan also prove that keeping
the peace in that country is easier than winning the war against
the Taliban. In recent days, the Afghan aviation minister
has been killed, there has been a riot in what was supposed
to be a friendly soccer game, and the international peacekeeping
group has been fired on by snipers. In the killing of the
Aviation Minister, Hamid Karzai, interim leader of Afghanistan,
maintains that the government official was assassinated by
rival political leaders in Afghanistan. There are still doubts
about who exactly caused the death, according to a recent
article in the Washington Post
If there is continued infighting, between warlords and civilians,
between Karzai and his own government, and this leads to the
U.S. prematurely leaving Afghanistan to avoid the crossfire,
this could muddle President Bush's most decisive victory.
The wild card in all of these recent developments is Enron.
Early developments showed that Ken Lay, may have meddled in
the compostion of FERC, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commision.
Enron papers released more recently show that Lay and Bush
had a close personal relationship in Texas that evolved into
a business relaionship, with Lay asking for tort reform, energy
deregulation and what else, tax breaks from then Governor
Bush, and Bush rewarding Lay with favorable decisions in all
three of these areas. The more documents that come out about
Bush and Enron, the clearer the evidence is that this is a
political as well as a business scandal. And that cannot bode
well for George W. Bush.
So, despite the President's record setting, mind boggling
approval ratings, there are issues on the horizon that could
knock the wheels off the Bush bandwagon and bring the Bush
juggernaut to a screeching halt.