Bush White House and GOP Show Signs Of Cluelessness and Disarray
"There is a growing sense of frustration with the president and the White House, quite frankly…The term I hear most often is 'tin ear,' " especially when it comes to pushing Social Security so aggressively at a time when the public is worried more about jobs and gasoline prices. "We could not have a worse message at a worse time."
--An influential Republican member of Congress, quoted anonymously by the Post
Even though Matt Drudge wants to spend the next several days making a big deal over two pieces in the Washington Post on the Clintons that are designed to help sell the book by Post reporter John Harris on Clinton’s presidency, another Post story may get some more legitimate attention. In Tuesday’s Post, Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei run a story whose theme is that Bush has already wasted his second term political capital. The story has some mind-numbing observations and some money quotes, like the one above.
"He has really burned up whatever mandate he had from that last election," said Leon E. Panetta, who served as White House chief of staff during President Bill Clinton's second term. "You can't slam-dunk issues in Washington. You can't just say, 'This is what I want done' and by mandate get it done. It's a lesson everybody has to learn, and sometimes you learn it the hard way."
Through more than four years in the White House, the signature of Bush's leadership has been that he does not panic in the face of bad poll numbers. Yet many Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the lobbyist corridor of K Street worry about a season of drift and complain that the White House has not listened to their concerns. In recent meetings, House Republicans have discussed putting more pressure on the White House to move beyond Social Security and talk up different issues, such as health care and tax reform, according to Republican officials who asked not to be named to avoid angering Bush's team.
So what do the GOP heavy thinkers recommend that Bush do to reverse his fortunes? Check out these winners and then realize that the GOP is grossly overrated.
From Newt Gingrich:
"Every president goes through patches like this," Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House speaker, said in an interview. "[President Ronald] Reagan had a difficult patch in August '81, but he came back and was strongly successful. Clinton, if you'll remember, in June or July of '95 looked like he couldn't get anything done and then won reelection. These things come and go."
To get back on track, Gingrich said, Bush should pare down his Social Security plan to its central element, personal investment accounts funded by payroll taxes. "I don't think he can get complex reform through," Gingrich said. "It's too hard with the AARP opposing you and all of the Democrats lined up against it."
That’s right, Newt recommends that Bush only focus on private accounts, the one thing that has become poison to him and the GOP. Newt also fails to see that his examples of other presidential turnarounds were from their first terms, when they could still have some leverage from an upcoming re-election campaign. Newt fails to see that Bush has tanked at the outset of his second term, when he won’t be on any more ballots and when his own party is more worried about 2006 than him.
Ed Rollins whines about the big bad Democrats trying to make Bush a lame duck already, and the best the William Kristol can do is recommend to Bush that he push for John Bolton, as if that mattered to most voters.
Such weakness has unleashed the first mutterings of those dreaded second-term words, "lame duck," however premature it might be with 3 1/2 years left in his tenure. "The Democrats are doing everything they can to make this president a lame duck," Republican consultant Ed Rollins complained on Fox News on Friday. William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, wrote recently about "the impression -- and the reality -- of disarray" in urging Bush to wage a strong fight for the nomination of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador.
Former Reagan staffer Ken Duberstein says Bush should seize the initiative on energy, CAFTA, and spending bills, issues where Bush has little to offer disgruntled voters already worried about jobs and higher gas prices who won’t be mollified by any talk about spending cuts.
Kenneth M. Duberstein, who was White House chief of staff during Reagan's second term, said after the congressional recess Bush needs "to seize the momentum" on energy legislation, the Central American free trade pact, spending bills and a Social Security solvency plan.
Yikes! The truth is that these GOP guys are scared and clueless, if this is the best they can come up with. We’re only six months into a second term and from reading this piece, the White House and its sycophants have no idea or energy for turning their situation around, no matter what sunny bullshit Rove peddles to a lapdog media. Add to that Frist’s talk yesterday about forcing a Social Security bill to the floor over Chuck Grassley’s head to get Bush’s private accounts into legislation, and you have the makings of a political Armageddon this summer where the only real losers will be the GOP senators and representatives running scared for their reelection next year.
The GOP is very good at creating their own reality by repeating a mantra over and over again until they make their own history. It's time for Democrats to begin repeating over and over again that this president and his administration are out of touch, captives of the far right lunatic fringe, are lame ducks already, and on the verge of irrelevancy.