I rarely address
political issues, as readers of my commentaries will attest, but it has become
impossible to ignore the direction that President Bush has taken the Republican
Party and the rest of the nation. We are mired in growing debt and it will
only take another attack on the US to plunge us back to the uncertainty and
impact on the economy that occurred after 9-11.
I don’t profess to understand anything going on in the White House, but it
doesn’t take a political analyst to conclude that Bush believes his conservative
base of support is solid and that he can neutralize the Democrat left by
signing off on liberal programs such as “No Child Left Behind” and his proposal
to add to the staggering numbers of illegal aliens filling America’s cities
and towns. He is not going to get Democrat votes and his Republican base
is disintegrating as this is being written.
Thanks to C-Span, I had a front row seat to hear some of the speakers at
the recent winter meeting of the Republican National Committee. The audience
was a sea of white, prosperous faces. One of the speakers was Governor Haley
Barbour, former RNC Chairman from 1993-1997. “This is going to be a close
election,” he said. And then he repeated it.
I have friends who are both to the far Left and the far Right. Those on the
far Right are agonizing among themselves over George Walker Bush. Some are
arguing that any Democrat candidate would be a disaster for America at this
time and, therefore, Bush must be supported, but just as many are arguing
that he must be abandoned because his bizarre domestic policies can do nothing
but harm the economy and the nation.
Those on the far Left argue his tax-cutting, combined with spending programs
like expanding Medicare to include coverage of drug purchase benefits, are
financially imprudent. Both Republicans and Democrats are correct. When they
meet in the middle, the likelihood is that they will vote for anybody but
My view is that Bush has calculated that fear of another 9-11 is sufficient in itself to get re-elected. I believe he is wrong.
Here’s a tiny bit of history that too many either don’t know or would prefer
to ignore. Every president since World War II who committed US troops to
massive military interventions overseas in undeclared wars was denied a second
term. Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson declined to run again. George Herbert
Walker Bush was defeated. I can recall how popular Bush41 was right after
the Gulf War. Bush43’s popularity is slipping, with some polls already suggesting
he can be defeated.
Polls consistently demonstrate that most Americans are worried about the
economy and health as major issues. They blame Bush for the loss of jobs
that are being transferred overseas, even though the President has no control
of such decisions. They can, though, expect that he will provide some relief
to small and midsized businesses that are struggling to survive the downturn
of the economy after 9-11; one that continues for many of them today.
They blame Bush, too, for having “misled” them into a war with Iraq when
it has become clear that his justification was based on a huge failure of
intelligence gathering, just as 9-11 was. As the months ahead unfold with
unknown events in Iraq, the failure to restore any form of sovereignty, even
including an Islamic government, will be seen as a misjudgment in the use
of force. I have argued that the US had to project force in the Middle East
to stem the tide of Islamic fanaticism driving the worldwide Jihad, but should
the White House be seen to too hastily turn over rule to a deeply divided
Iraq or to the United Nations, that folly will be obvious to everyone, everywhere.
I do not know anybody who is not increasingly deep in debt. They range from
young couples with new babies and new homes, to older citizens like myself
who have found their property taxes doubled to pay for failing educational
systems and the way States increased their borrowing and spending during
the 90s. Bankruptcies are increasing, once thriving businesses are experiencing
cutbacks and loss of revenue that force layoffs. Men and women with excellent
professional and managerial skills are faced with costly decisions just to
keep their jobs or secure new ones.
The undercurrent of discontent is palpable throughout the nation and it was
this discontent that Governor Howard Dean tapped into initially. It is this
discontent that is now being stirred by other Democrat candidates. Something
is terribly wrong in Washington, DC, they say, and they are right.
The Republican Party is at a crossroads. They are pledged to support the
President, but they have demonstrated that control of Congress has not differentiated
them from Democrats in any demonstrable way. Haley Barbour warned the RNC
they have to be for something. Right now they have demonstrated they are
for liberal Democrat programs!
The heady days of the Reagan revolution are over. The Gingrich-led takeover
of Congress with its “Contract with America” is a pale memory. Congress and
the nation are sharply divided and, if the White House does not begin to
show some humility and demonstrate something more than promises of better
times to come, the November elections are going to come as a terrible shock
and loss to them.
Right now, I am in the camp of those who fear the Islamic Jihad more than
any domestic issue, but I am also in the camp of those who detest the President’s
education, immigration, and economic policies. Many other Republicans are
beginning to openly criticize these policies and, if there is a critical
mass of them by November, many will stay home rather than vote.
By how many votes did Bush win Florida the last time? Not many.
Alan Caruba is the author of Warning Signs, published by Merril Press. His weekly commentaries are posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.