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Are the Wheels Coming Off the Bush Bandwagon?
February 20, 2002
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 popularity.

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 reasonable statement.

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.

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