Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hard Times For All The President's Men...And The President

You don't hear much about President Bush in the mainstream media anymore. They'll give light coverage to his current small-town tour of trying to shore up support for the Iraq War, and re-igniting fear in the public's mind about the eternally imminent second round of major terrorist attacks on the United States, but the focus of the debate on the Iraq War, and the 'War On Terror' generally, has slewed off onto the generals and the horrors on the ground.

When coverage does circle back round to Bush, it's mostly about how is dealing with the Democrats refusal to play his ball game over funding the future of the Iraq War. For many major US journalists, when Bush opens his mouth these days, they've heard it all before. They're far more interested in the spicier action now consuming some of the president's closest friends and allies.

The mainstream media focus on Washington politics continues to centre on virtually every other senior member of the Bush administration, rather than Bush himself, as this short, but comprehensive, piece from the AFP explains :

With US President George W. Bush already facing a tough second term with a dismal approval rating hovering around 30 percent, his inner circle has been hit hard by scandals and a chorus of calls for resignations.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has faced a barrage of criticism and calls for him to step down over his handling of the firing of top prosecutors.

Bush's political guru Karl Rove, a White House aide once dubbed "Bush's Brain," has consistently been the target of animosity from the administration's harshest critics who see his hand in many scandals.

Even leaving the administration doesn't leave one safe.

World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, the former Pentagon deputy chief, is hanging on to his job by a thread amid a favoritism scandal over a hefty pay raise to his girlfriend, a bank employee.

Two of the most criticized "Bushies" -- as the president's loyal confidants are often called -- have already lost their jobs after Democrats took control of Congress from Bush's Republicans in November elections.

Donald Rumsfeld, an architect of the Iraq war, resigned as defense secretary just a day after the November 7 elections that were marked by deep voter anger over the conflict.

The next election casualty was John Bolton in December, a fellow hawk who was unable to stay on as UN ambassador as the Democratic-held Senate would have likely refused to confirm him at the post.

Is the Bush White House crumbling with two years left in his term? "In one sense, yes," said political analyst Eric Davis.

Gonzales, a longtime Bush aide who was his legal advisor during his term as Texas governor in the 1990s, was grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to explain his role in the firing of eight US attorneys, which Democrats say was politically motivated.

A top Republican, Senator Tom Coburn, bluntly called for his resignation.

White House foes want Rove to testify about his own role in the scandal.

Wolfowitz, meanwhile, has been accused of hypocrisy after revelations that he ordered a hefty salary worth nearly 200,000 dollars for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, in 2005, while steering a controversial campaign against corruption in the World Bank's 24-billion-dollar annual lending.

A Washington Post columnist questioned if Rove, Wolfowitz and Gonzales can be trusted.

"Today's topic is credibility -- specifically, recent claims by certain high-ranking present, former and perhaps soon-to-be-former Bush administration officials," columnist Eugene Robinson wrote this week.

"The aim is to answer a simple question: Should we believe these three Bush loyalists if they tell us that rain falls down instead of up, or should we look out the window to make sure?" it said.

But as many credible Washington writers have pointed out, in the decades to come, there is likely to be scant interest in the dramas consuming Rove, Wolfowitz and Gonzales. Theirs are merely minor events in the biggest historical story of our days : Bush And Iraq.

When historians turn their attention to April, 2007, they are likely to only find an ever-growing-more-isolated Bush failing to rally support for the Iraq War, and reduced to trawling town halls and high school audiences of a few hundred carefully screened audience members. He will be cited for giving 90-plus minute long, waffle-filled, speeches, taking only a few questions at the most in what are framed as "discussions", and giving fifteen minute long answers in reply.

But then, as has been said, only the fallen can rise. And Bush has fallen mightily since his near messianic 'glory days' post-9/11, when the nation backed him to the hilt, and most of the world listened to his plans to take out Osama Bin Laden and agreed heartily.

Few seem to care these days where Bin Laden is, and what he us up to, now he has all but fallen off the face of the Earth. It's a situation that Bush himself is increasingly beginning to understand for himself.

And meanwhile, back in Iraq, more than 300 Iraqis die in just one day (April 18) and more than
30 American soldiers are killed, and dozens more wounded, in the space of only one week.

We'll take a look at some of Bush's recent speeches in the coming days...