NEWS

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May 12, 2006

Thoughts on the Bush presidency

This past week has really been a microcosm of the Bush presidency. In many ways he is just like Reagan, the Teflon president. He had secretly spied on Americans, in two different, yet equally illegal ways. He has gone to war on false pretenses (which is an accusation independent of whether Bush's policy circle's pretenses were false which I don't think they were, but that's another debate). He has allowed the torture of countless combatants and “enemy non-combatants” around the world. He has overseen a deadly increase in government spending, especially the new entitlements that will murder the federal budget in a couple of decades. But while those have been what I would consider the worst actions of the presidency, none seemed to actually affected his popularity. You can chalk that up to Karl Rove, an ignorant American public, or to a unique charisma Bush seems to have that is clearly lost on many liberals, but no matter what, he somehow pulled it off...until now.What is different? Well a couple of things seemed to have successfully sunk Bush, but ironically, none of them seem to be Bush’s fault. The three biggest issues have been Hurricane Katrina, rising gas prices, and the continued military presence in Iraq. While Hurricane Katrina was a terrible natural disaster, the extent of Bush's guilt was poor PR and a bad choice to head-up FEMA. These are hardly the type of offense that ought to so drastically sink a president's approval ratings. On top of that, the price of gas is completely out of Bush’s hands (yet check out this graph charting his popularity with the inverse price in gas). In fact, if Bush were to actually step in and do something about the rising gas prices it would be the 1970s all over again (and that worked really well for Jimmy Carter). In the same vein, Iraq might have been politically expedient in Bush's first term but keeping our troops in their now is the right thing to do, despite the political cost that comes with every roadside bomb detonated in Iraq. So then what does this mean? Well first, that Democrats can't get too cocky. Many seem to be connecting the plummeting polling numbers to the first set of terrible policies that Bush made, inferring that the public suddenly disagrees with its past approval of all of those policies when it re-elected Bush in 2004. This is a mistake. Bush is suffering, but I don’t see this as destroying the Republican Party which still has an incredibly strong base and an ideological consistency that ought to make Democratic leader’s mouths water. We’ll see what happens in 2006, but whatever it is, Democrats can’t bank on natural disasters and fortuitous flutters in the price of gas to get them anywhere for all that long. Perhaps replacing the future speaker of the house with someone who more than a dozen crazy liberals identify with would be a good first step to getting there. That’s my vote at least.