Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bush Seen As Political Poison By Republican Presidential Candidates

Blame Bush For Iraq, Not US Whine Wannabe Presidents

Another major story on the pasting President Bush took from his fellow Republicans during their most recent debate :

From the Washington Post :
If there was an unexpected loser in Tuesday's Republican presidential debate, it was President Bush and his administration's record.

The Republican candidates offered repeated criticism of their Democratic opponents, but on issue after issue, they also shredded the president's performance over the past four years. Iraq? Badly mismanaged. Katrina? Bungled. Immigration? The wrong solution. Federal spending? Out of control.

The candidates struggled even to say they would welcome the president playing a role in their administrations should they win the White House in 2008.

The debate seemed to signal open season on the president's record, highlighting the reality that the candidates see the Bush legacy as a liability rather than an asset as they look toward a general election campaign in 2008.

The candidates were careful not to make their criticism of Bush too personal, which GOP strategists believe remains out of bounds for anyone with a serious chance of winning the Republican nomination. But there was no attempt to suggest, as Bush's father did when he ran to succeed then-President Ronald Reagan in 1988, that they want to be viewed as seeking a third term of the current Bush administration.

But Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press said support for Bush has declined sharply from its historic highs and it is not surprising that the Republican candidates have begun to distance themselves from him this early in the campaign. This is not only because of Bush's unpopularity among Democrats and independents, but also because of erosion in support among Republicans.

"I think it's unavoidable," he said, noting that Bush's approval among Republicans in the latest Pew poll had dropped to 65 percent from 77 percent in April.

"He's a Republican president who once had 90 [percent approval among Republicans]," Kohut added. "They were very loyal to Bush for a very long time. The movement downward has to do with the fact that there's some Republican disaffection going on."

If there is any issue on which the Republicans have been reluctant to break with the president, it is Iraq. The presidential candidates remain strong supporters of the current troop surge policy, despite its unpopularity with a majority of Americans.

But while tying themselves to the current policy, the Republican candidates have become increasingly critical of what happened after U.S. forces deposed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"I'm going to give you a little straight talk," Arizona Sen. John McCain said at the debate here on Tuesday night. "This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time. And Americans have made great sacrifices, some of which were unnecessary because of this management of the war -- mismanagement of this conflict."

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney also defended the current policy but noted: "I supported the president's decision [to invade Iraq] based on what we knew at that time. I think we were under-prepared and under-planned for what came after we knocked down Saddam Hussein."

Asked at a news conference Wednesday morning who was responsible for the lack of preparation, Romney said: "There's no question that the buck stops at the top, and I'm sure the president recognizes that and feels that."

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who is working for McCain, told a Harvard University seminar earlier this year that Republican candidates must tread lightly in distancing themselves from the president.

"People in our party admire his consistency, his leadership and his personal dimensions, and you had better be very, very careful how you talk about the president around those things and you'd better say 'I admire and respect him, but I differ with his views and I differ with the conduct, I think a change needs to be made'," he said.