Democratic Underground  

Can This White House Be Saved?
April 29, 2003
By Martin Matheny

Remember where you were the day the statue fell in Baghdad. It might prove to a historic moment in more ways than one. Not only did it signal the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, it might also have foreshadowed the systematic unraveling of the Bush administration.

It's too soon to tell, of course. With well over a year until election 2004, Dubya isn't even close to entering the kind of political tailspin that makes pundits salivate. But, as the embedded reporters return to the land of Starbuck's and infomercials, the media coverage is starting to pick up on the Republicans' litany of foibles, faults, and fiascos.

The frightening part for the Bushies is that most of the problems are coming from within. Taken by themselves, they're minor events, little more than political oregano for a bland news day. But, put them together, along with the others that inevitably will happen in the next year and a half, and they spell a definite hurdle for the White House, as American voters shift back into domestic policy mode.

First of all, there's the new GOP polling memo by Bush's pollster, Matthew Dowd. Intended to warn Republicans that the President's poll numbers will probably soon prove to be less than rosy, it also serves to lower expectations in the media for the inevitable "horse race journalism" that will follow the onset of primary season in 2004. The prediction that the days of inflated approval ratings are coming to a close does not bode well for Karl Rove and company, who plan on using the spike in Bush's wartime numbers to push his domestic agenda through.

Another issue coming to the forefront is the President's rather overt scheme to reward certain well-placed corporate donors with lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq. The creation of Halliburton-on-the-Euphrates is receiving more attention, and outrage at these blatant tactics is growing faster than the stock in Dick Cheney's blind trust.

However, the President's biggest problems are coming from within. His handpicked Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, is not exactly the dealmaker that he was hyped to be. GOP moderates like Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and George Voinovich (R-OH) are bucking the party line and calling for a substantially lower round of tax cuts. Many of them would prefer no tax cut at all.

In a sure sign that the administration has gone too far on restricting personal freedoms, even former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia has called the Justice Department out on certain clauses of the Patriot Act. The most astonishing thing about this is that Bob Barr, who has a reputation for being slightly to the right of Barry Goldwater, has aligned himself with the ACLU on this one. If this isn't a sign of problems with the Bush White House, then it is a sign that hell is about to freeze over. Either way, Bush, Rove, and company should be worried.

Then you have the spate of bigoted remarks coming from Congressional Republicans. Since the Trent Lott debacle, we've seen Barbara Cubin (R-WY) imply that all African-Americans are drug addicts, while praising the Aryan characteristics of her two sons. We've also seen Rick Santorum (R-PA), the third highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, equate homosexuality with incest, adultery, and bestiality. In the days since his gaffe, Santorum and the GOP spin-meisters have tried to blame CNN, John Kerry's campaign manager, the United States Supreme Court, the Democrats in general, and probably the man in the moon too. The only ones that haven't been blamed are the man who said it and the party that has taken a pass on reproving him for it. Needless to say, the President's glowing endorsement of Mr. Santorum's bigotry is not exactly compassionate, although it certainly is conservative.

Finally, there is nothing the media loves more than a nice "process story", where they can expose an inane and silly mistake. Perhaps the best process story so far comes from the GOP's transparent attempt to capitalize on September 11th by holding their 2004 convention in New York City, and as close to the anniversary of that infamous date as they could. The problem is, President Bush is scheduled to accept the nomination of his adoring party on September 2nd, 2004. Unfortunately, that will be about two days too late to get on the ballot in Alabama. With a Democratic majority in the State Legislature, the chances of getting a later deadline in Alabama look about as likely as, well, I was going to say as likely as Bob Barr aligning with the ACLU, but let's just say, its highly unlikely.

So, can this White House be saved? Unfortunately, it can. Most Americans are not thinking about November 2004 yet. There's plenty of time for Dubya and the gang to run a damage control drill, and keep new problems from coming up. But the next Presidential election is not going to be decided by one huge Watergate-style scandal. Smart Democrats are going to have to pull down the wall of wartime invulnerability one brick at a time. And for that strategy, this is good news.

Printer-friendly version
Tell a friend about this article Tell a friend about this article
Discuss this article
Democratic Underground Homepage