Bush Wounded by Iraq Fallout
President Bush believed he could win the next election on his reputation of being a war leader. He used terrorism as a political tool to push his agenda and in particular to prove to the world that he was a strong and bold leader unrestrained by the old rules. He used the war on terrorism to justify a war to take over Iraq. And now, that war in Iraq is coming back to haunt him.
Bush's campaign believes that Bush's drop in approval ratings is something that can be overcome. They believe that Bush can turn this around, noting that his numbers went up when Saddam was captured. They are doing what they can to destroy Kerry (as we knew they would) so to leave Bush as the only alternative. But the problem for Bush is so much of his previous success was based on a belief that he was a strong leader that cared about doing the right thing for America. Now it is visible that he really is a very bad leader and he has created a catastrophic situation by his mismanagement and by those he put in charge of his policy. Afterall, he put Rumsfeld in charge of his war and no one can deny that Rumsfeld has botched this war in Iraq royally. Rumsfeld has lost the trust of the soldiers that are dying in Bush's war. What is going to convince voters that Bush is competent after this display of incompetence? He has no where to go but down.
Last year before Bush rushed the country into a war he could not convince many in the world was necessary, Bill Keller compared Bush to Reagan. Keller wrote about Bush's vision (bold and revolutionary), and noted that Bush's gamble could go terribly wrong. (my emphasis)
What Bush is striving for, on the evidence of the choices he has made so far, is bold in its ambition: markets unleashed, resources exploited. A progressive tax system leveled, a country unashamed of wealth. Government entitlements gradually replaced by thrift, self-reliance and private good will. The safety net strung closer to the ground. Government itself infused with, in some cases supplanted by, the efficiency and accountability of a well-run corporation. A court system dedicated to protecting property and private enterprise and enforcing individual responsibility. A global common market that hums to the tune of American productivity. In the world, America rampant -- unfettered by international law, unflinching when challenged, unmatchable in its might, more interested in being respected than in being loved.
If he fails, my guess is that it will be a failure not of caution but of overreaching, which means it will be failure on a grand scale. If he succeeds, he will move us toward an America Ronald Reagan would have been happy to call his own.
Bush has a record of gambling big and losing big. Now that people see the results of his big gamble on the world stage, will they ever trust him to gamble with their future again? I think not.