Friday, April 20, 2007

The Spectacular Collapse Of The Bush Administration

Two stories about the disintegration of the Bush administration, under a hail of failure, internal corruption and fallout from the Iraq War. Bush's Attorney General is close to being forced to quit, the vice president will probably have impeachment papers filed against him in the coming days, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq appear to be going backwards, losing key allies and international support, as "surge" tactics do little to halt the horrific violence.

For the Republicans, this is the very worst of times. Eight years of Bush Co's arrogant and stubborn refusals to listen to expert advice, and the will of the people, helped to lose them Congress and now they fear an even bigger price will have to be paid.

They're growing more and more worried that the legacy of the Bush administration has already destroying their chances of keeping the White House republican in 2008, and will keep them out of the most powerful office in the land in 2012 as well.

The Democrats can't seem to do anything wrong, even though the view is widely held that their first three months in control of The Hill, has been "less than spectacular". The reason why is clear.

As Time magazine points out, a much bigger story is unfolding :

...the epic collapse of the Bush Administration.

The three big Bush stories of 2007--the decision to "surge" in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons--precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys).

Iraq comes first, as always. From the start, it has been obvious that personal motives have skewed the President's judgment about the war. Saddam tried to kill his dad; his dad didn't try hard enough to kill Saddam. There was payback to be had. But never was Bush's adolescent petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction: adding troops and employing counterinsurgency tactics inappropriate to the situation on the ground.

As with Bush's invasion of Iraq, the decision to surge was made unilaterally, without adequate respect for history or military doctrine. Iraq was invaded with insufficient troops and planning; the surge was attempted with too few troops (especially non-Kurdish, Arabic-speaking Iraqis), a purposely misleading time line ("progress" by September) and, most important, the absence of a reliable Iraqi government.

Bush's indifference to reality in Iraq is not an isolated case. It is the modus operandi of his Administration.

On April 3, the President again accused Democrats of being "more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need." Such demagoguery is particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to provide our troops "what they need" at the nation's premier hospital for veterans. The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of incompetence in this Administration.

"This is yet another aspect of war planning that wasn't done properly," says Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The entire VA hospital system is unprepared for the casualties of Iraq, especially the psychiatric casualties. A lot of vets are saying, 'This is our Katrina moment.' And they're right: this Administration governs badly because it doesn't care very much about governing."

Compared with Iraq and Walter Reed, the firing of the U.S. Attorneys is a relatively minor matter. It is true that U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, but they are political appointees of a special sort. They are partisans, obviously, but must appear to be above politics--not working to influence elections, for example--if public faith in the impartiality of the justice system is to be maintained. Once again Karl Rove's operation has corrupted a policy area--like national security--that should be off-limits to political operators.

I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance, incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.
In one of the most dramatic falls from grace in American presidential history, Bush has gone from an approval rating of more than 95%, post-9/11, to one that dips below 30% on a regular basis. For the Republicans who want to want to win in 2008, the unthinkable has become fact : President Bush is political poison.

From the New York Times :

Republican leaders across the country say they are growing increasingly anxious about their party’s chances of holding the White House, citing public dissatisfaction with President Bush, the political fallout from the war in Iraq and the problems their leading presidential candidates are having generating enthusiasm among conservative voters.

Republicans said they were concerned about signs of despondency among party members and fund-raisers, reflected in polls and the Democratic fund-raising advantage in the first quarter of the year. Many party leaders expressed worry that the party’s presidential candidates faced a tough course without some fundamental shift in the political dynamic.

Rick Beltram, a Republican county leader in Spartanburg, S.C., said that he found evidence of Republican despair as he sought to organize support for all the candidates as they visit his state, one of the most important in the Republican nominating process.

“I would say a lot of people are not turned on because they don’t see a lot of bright spots out there,” Mr. Beltram said. “Home prices are going down. Gas prices are going up. And the war keeps dragging on.”

Shawn Steele, the former Republican Party chairman in California, said the candidates were being dragged down by their associations with Mr. Bush as well as with the war. Mr. Steele and other Republicans argued that the candidates were in a difficult position as they tried to distance themselves from a president who is having so many difficulties, while at the same time not alienating Republican base voters and donors who remain loyal to Mr. Bush and his foreign policy.

“It’s a dying administration,” Mr. Steele said. “There’s a fatigue factor and there’s a rubbing-off when it’s not very smart to be closely associated with such low ratings.”

...even the most optimistic Republican officials said they thought Democrats were in a stronger position in a presidential race now than at any other time since 1996. They noted polls showing that an increasing number of Americans were calling themselves Democrats, as well as the fund-raising numbers from the first-quarter that showed the Democrats’ presidential field had raised $78 million, about $27 million more than the Republicans.

The biggest problem, several Republicans said, is the disparity between the level of enthusiasm on display among Democrats and that on the Republican side.

“You’re seeing a carryover of the energy and the enthusiasm and the momentum from the 2006 Democratic takeover,” said Representative Adam H. Putnam, Republican of Florida. “Momentum is an important force in sports and politics, and the momentum is clearly on their side.”