No go, Joe
You are loyal to me, and me alone
THE ADVICE ISSUE (REPUBLICAN EDITION)
Save Yourself, Blame Bush
By Joe Scarborough
Sunday, September 17, 2006; Page B01
I can't help but feel sorry for my old Republican friends in Congress who are fighting for their political lives. After all, it must be tough explaining to voters at their local Baptist church's Keep Congress Conservative Day that it was their party that took a $155 billion surplus and turned it into a record-setting $400 billion deficit.
How exactly does one convince the teeming masses that Republicans deserve to stay in power despite botching a war, doubling the national debt, keeping company with Jack Abramoff, fumbling the response to Hurricane Katrina, expanding the government at record rates, raising cronyism to an art form, playing poker with Duke Cunningham, isolating America and repeatedly electing Tom DeLay as their House majority leader?
How does a God-fearing Reagan Republican explain all that away?
Easy. Blame George W. Bush.
Escaping political death by attacking an unpopular president is hardly new -- especially since most endangered politicians have the loyalty of a starving billy goat. But this is Dubya's Washington, where the White House has pushed around, bullied and betrayed GOP lawmakers for years.
Republican House members and senators always believed that this White House took them for granted. But after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most of them had no choice but to sulk in their cloakrooms, listen to Debby Boone on their iPods and take it like a man. Bush was a rock star among the party faithful through the 2004 election, so crossing this popular commander in chief was not an option. That's not to say that Old Bulls didn't privately growl about how they were treated better when their old nemesis was still frolicking with an intern. So what if Bill Clinton misbehaved? At least that president found time to personally negotiate terms of subcommittee markups -- even if he was defiling the Oval Office at the same time.
But that kind of give-and-take between presidents and members of Congress ended once Clinton retired to Chappaqua. For the next five years, Republicans on the Hill would do little more than rubber-stamp Bush's domestic and international agenda because lawmakers were intimidated by his power and his popularity with the Republican base.
If I were a GOP candidate this year, I would not call the president an idiot (he isn't). But I would spend the next 50 days of the campaign telling conservatives and liberals alike that even though I voted for this war once and this president twice, time has proved that Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were wrong to think that the nation could win Iraq on the cheap. I would also look them in the eye and say that our president was wrong to believe that the United States could fight a war, cut taxes and increase federal spending, all at once. I would castigate my president for claiming to support homeland security while allowing our borders to remain wide open.
Using a midterm campaign to run away from your party's president is not unprecedented. In 1994, Democrats did it while GOP challengers were busy tying Clinton's political carcass around their necks. Some Southern Democrats were so desperate to run away from Clinton's tax increase and health care debacle that they in effect told White House operatives that any attempt to send Air Force One to their districts would be met with antiaircraft fire.
In the end, Democrats' efforts to save their majorities in the House and Senate were futile. Right-wing barbarians like me were elected because after two long years of political bumbling, voters were tired of Clinton. Unfortunately for endangered Republicans 12 years later, Clinton's poll numbers during that campaign were 15 percentage points higher than Bush's now. That suggests that the Democratic tidal wave this year will rival that of the Republicans in 1994.
But these Republicans have one advantage that Clinton's party lacked in 1994: Their opponents are Democrats. The Party of Pelosi. The party that is so tongue-tied on its best political issue that I still can't tell you where it stands on Iraq. Nor can they explain how they would balance the budget or stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
That failure to present an alternative vision is in stark contrast with Gingrich & Co., who spent 1994 drawing up a legislative package, a plan to balance the budget and enough position papers to strip an Amazon rain forest.
This year, maybe Democrats can beat something with nothing. As for Republicans, their only chance of survival is blasting the president for mistakes of the past and attacking the Democrats for their failings of the future.
And if this was an election about Iran, the GOP might have a chance. But it isn't. It's about Iraq and Bush's failure. He's getting as desperate as Pinochet in England to avoid any kind of legal reckoning for his administration.
The fact is that the GOP, by being loyal to Bush cannot now turn on him. Besides the fact that he's a loyalty fetishist, the Dems have the tools to hammer GOP candidates with ads coming from outside the system. And those ads hang Bush around local GOP candidates like a millstone.
Sure, they can turn on Rummy now, but it won't count. After all, who would you trust, a recent turncoat or someone you are guaranteed who will vote against Bush. All they do is confirm the argument that Bush needs to go. Please talk about fighting a war on the cheap when you voted for tax cuts.
The GOP is totally defensive now and spending money in GOP seats to save them. The problem is that Bush and Cheney are desperately unpopular.
posted by Steve @ 2:21:00 AM