Bush's Faltering Foreign Policy Is A Major Problem For The GOP Next Year
There have been a couple of bookend stories on the troubles facing Bush and the GOP heading into the 2006 elections as a result of Bush’s faltering foreign policy. First, and almost under the radar screen today was a Page One in the Post (gee, how did Len Downie let this get on Page One when it doesn’t kiss Bush’s ass?) wherein Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer write about Bush’s lack of success with the Axis of Evil:
President Bush's campaign against what he once termed the "axis of evil" has suffered reverses on all three fronts in recent days that underscore the profound challenges confronting him 3 1/2 years after he vowed to take action.
First, multilateral talks orchestrated by the United States to pressure North Korea to give up nuclear weapons adjourned last week after 13 days without agreement. Then Iran restarted its program to convert uranium, in defiance of the United States and Europe. Finally, negotiators in Iraq failed to draft a new constitution by Monday's deadline amid an unrelenting guerrilla war against U.S. forces.
None of these developments may be fatal to Bush's policy goals, but the quick succession of setbacks has left his national security team privately discouraged and searching for answers. Whereas Bush in his first term vowed to reinvent foreign policy with a new doctrine of military preemption to deal with rogue states, he has largely dropped such talk since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Instead, he has favored diplomacy with Tehran and Pyongyang and nation-building with Baghdad -- yet the old-fashioned improvisation has yielded similarly murky results.
Then, in Thursday’s New York Times, David Kirkpatrick and Adam Nagourney write that Bush’s problems may be a drag on GOP candidates next year:
A stream of bad news out of Iraq, echoed at home by polls that show growing impatience with the war and rising disapproval of President Bush's Iraq policies, is stirring political concern in Republican circles, party officials said Wednesday.
"There is just no enthusiasm for this war," said Representative John J. Duncan Jr., a Tennessee Republican who opposes the war. "Nobody is happy about it. It certainly is not going to help Republican candidates, I can tell you that much."
Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Maryland Republican who originally supported the war but has since turned against it, said he had encountered "a lot of Republicans grousing about the situation as a whole and how they have to respond to a lot of questions back home."
"I have been to a lot of funerals," Mr. Gilchrest said. The concern has grown particularly acute as lawmakers have returned home for a Congressional recess this month. Several have seen first-hand how communities are affected by the deaths of a group of local reservists.
Republicans said they were losing hope that the United States would be effectively out of Iraq - or at least that casualties would stop filling the evening news programs - by the time the Congressional campaigns begin in earnest. Mr. Bush recently declined to set any timetable for withdrawing United States troops.
Grover Norquist, a conservative activist with close ties to the White House and Mr. Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, said: "If Iraq is in the rearview mirror in the '06 election, the Republicans will do fine. But if it's still in the windshield, there are problems."
Clearly, the GOP and its candidates had hoped that the Iraq war could be milked as part of the anti-terror program at least through the 2004 campaign, and they assumed that Bush and the GOP could declare victory and come home to parades and platitudes in time for the 2006 midterms. Now the GOP is looking at the reality that they will have to explain this war for a second election cycle to their constituents back home, without themselves knowing why the hell we are there and what for. Democrats should, as they did and should continue to do with Social Security, make the GOP explain why the war and privatization are such good ideas, and make the GOP run on Iraq and Social Security next year.