Here on Mount Olympus
where poets and pundits like myself take dinner with the ancient gods, it
is easy to lose touch with what people are saying these days about George
Fortunately, there is email. And my email is filling up with various versions
of the same message from conservatives. They fear and, in many cases, even
hate him. This isn’t everyone, of course. Lots of people still like and trust
him, but in terms of getting re-elected, someone in the White House ought
to worry about those who should be his political base of support.
I am not surprised by the passionate hatred some Democrats express, nor am
I surprised that hatred plays a role in our political views. During much
of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s terms in the White House, Republicans could
barely speak his name. They commonly referred to him as “that man” through
gritted teeth. Many could barely stand “Tricky Dick” Nixon, scorning him
while he was in office and delighting in the Watergate scandal that ended
his tenure. Many, including myself, detested Bill Clinton who disgraced himself
and the Oval Office.
Presidents, for all their power, are frequently flawed personalities. Their
quest for that power is often their greatest blind spot. We don’t generally
elect angels. We elect men who have demonstrated a capacity for leadership.
When they try to lead us somewhere we don’t want to go, we reject them or
elect someone else. This happened to the late Lyndon B. Johnson. Or ask Jimmy
Carter. Ask George H.W. Bush.
These days, the President is trying to lead the nation into a world where
American power is being used to transform the Middle East cesspool of violence
and ignorance. He’s no great orator like Ronald Reagan and, in fact, he’s
not that good a communicator at all. He keeps the press at arm’s distance
most of the time. In short, he’s not made a case for this paradigm shift
from waiting to be attacked again to eliminating the problem at its source.
These days, too, there is a strong, subterranean flow of hot political lava
that is reflected in many voices, some influential, some just ordinary citizens,
all joined in a mutual fear of where Bush has taken the nation. It’s more
than just a disagreement over policy. It is a deep distrust and animus toward
What Bush cannot afford is to have conservatives stay home on Election Day.
The question must be asked, why are so many “fiscal” and “social” Republicans
and/or conservatives inclined to abandon Bush? The answer is they think he
has abandoned them.
These days, the President mostly talks about 9-11 and the threat of terrorism
and about generating new jobs, although he seems to be backing off the latter
topic of late. Many are buying into the view that Bush “lied” us into the
Iraq war. Some recall that Lyndon B. Johnson most certainly lied us into
a broader involvement in Vietnam. Those same people forget the years of fruitless
UN resolutions, all of which were based on the belief that Saddam Hussein
had scads of WMDs.
Has the memory of over 3,000 dead Americans on 9-11 faded so swiftly? Yes.
Does terrorism exist worldwide? Yes. Do tyrannical governments sponsor it?
Yes. Is the threat real? Yes. Despite this, many erroneously think that al
Qaeda and other terrorists groups are now just a Bush boogeyman used to convince
us to give up our Constitutional rights.
The swift creation of the Department of Homeland Security has not brought
about a sense of security. For example, many resent that our nation’s borders
remain wide open to thousands of illegal aliens, mostly Mexicans, who come
across at will. No one seems to favor the Bush administration immigration
proposals. Few believe that any real progress has been made to secure our
borders, our airports, or much else that enters our ports.
Still others don’t think the economy is improving. By almost any indicator,
however, it is. The statistics about Gross National Product and about Wall
Street mean nothing to people who cannot find work, whose businesses are
not doing well or whose life savings cannot sustain a decent retirement.
What then is the alternative? At this writing, it would appear that Senator
John Kerry may carry the Democrat banner. I have yet to have heard the senator
speak in anything but platitudes. His message is “change,” but every political
party promises change.
Kerry runs as a Vietnam veteran, but his service there is vastly diminished
by the fact that he claimed his fellow veterans were war criminals. In the
years since, he has done nothing to support the buildup of our national defense,
nor the need for a vastly improved intelligence community to avoid and deter
further 9-11s. His voting record is more liberal than Teddy Kennedy’s. Do
Republicans, however disaffected they may be, want to vote for that?
It would do Republicans some good to recall that Al Gore came within a whisper
of being elected President in 2000. Now Gore shows up on a record-breaking
cold day to declare that global warming is coming or is seen bellowing that
Bush “betrayed” the nation. How nuts is that?
It’s conventional wisdom that there’s a long time to go before the national
election and a lot can happen between now and then. What I am wondering is
whether the animus, the hostility among a large sector of Republicans/conservatives
toward Bush will diminish. If it does not, it may well be the independent
vote that keeps him in office.
I could be wrong. I have other friends who predict he will win in a landslide
and bring a lot of Republicans into Congress with him. It’s hard to tell
from way up here on Mount Olympus.
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.