Tuesday :: Feb 28, 2006

Even With Arm Twisting, Bush's Hold Over GOP On Security Issues May Be Waning


by Steve

Read this solid piece in Wednesday’s Post by Peter Baker on the troubles within the GOP for Bush caused by his disregard for Congress, which are now exacerbated by the CBS poll results from yesterday.

"We simply want to participate and aren't going to be PR flacks when they need us," (GOP Representative Mark) Foley said. "We all have roles. We have oversight. When you can't answer your constituents when they have legitimate questions . . . we can't simply do it on trust."
The breakdown of the Republican consensus on national security both reflects and exacerbates Bush's political weakness heading toward the midterm elections, according to party strategists. Even as Republicans abandoned him last year on domestic issues such as Social Security, Hurricane Katrina relief and Harriet Miers's Supreme Court nomination, they had largely stuck by him on terrorism and other security issues.
Karl Rove, the president's political guru and deputy chief of staff, has already signaled that he intends to use national security as the defining issue for the fall congressional campaigns, just as he did to great effect in 2002 and 2004. But with Bush's numbers still falling, the Republicans who will be on the ballot have decided to define the security issue in their own way rather than defer to the president's interpretation.
The release of a new CBS News poll showing Bush's approval rating dropping to 34 percent, a low for him in that survey, sent tremors through Republican circles in Washington. Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole's presidential campaign in 1996, called the results "pretty shattering." Most distressing to GOP strategists was that Bush's support among Republicans fell from 83 percent to 72 percent.
"The repetition of the news coming out of Iraq is wearing folks down," Reed said. "It started with women and it's spreading. It's just bad news after bad news after bad news, without any light at the end of the tunnel."

Bush is still cowing the GOP to do his bidding on the Patriot Act, the NSA spying mess, and now for a while on the Dubai ports deal. But the Post notes that all is not what it seems.

The Senate voted yesterday to clear the way for final passage today of a compromise version of the Patriot Act after a handful of Republicans in recent months insisted on changes to the law. But Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he was still dissatisfied with the additional checks on law enforcement and introduced a new bill to set further restrictions on the collection of certain information in terrorism investigations without court orders.
Specter's committee also held another hearing yesterday into the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance authorized by Bush. Specter and other Republicans are drafting bills to establish congressional or court oversight of the eavesdropping.
And it was clear yesterday that a fresh 45-day review of the ports deal might not satisfy GOP critics. Two Senate committees grilled administration officials and the chief executive of the Dubai company at the center of the dispute yesterday. A bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Norm Coleman (Minn.), Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and Tom Coburn (Okla.), is scheduled to meet today to discuss legislation giving Congress final say over the deal.

We’re all too used to seeing the GOP be Bush’s bitches; speaking tough for a day or so and then seeing them cave in. But will they cave in so easily this year when they themselves are up for reelection and if the Democrats maintain even a minimum of pressure and attention on these issues?

The key for Democrats this spring and summer is to remind voters over and over again that the GOP Congress is nothing more than a rubber-stamp Congress. As we get closer to the midterms, these attacks will gain traction. Democrats need to force vulnerable GOP incumbents into either parting company with the White House, or showing once again that in the end result, these folks are really nothing more than Karl's bitches.

Steve :: 7:55 PM :: Comments (6) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!