Sunday, March 5

WHY HAS BUSH LOST TOUCH WITH HIS BASE?

President Bush's poll numbers -- the confidence American voters have in him and how they rate his performance in office -- are abysmal. Conservative bloggers can deconstruct the polls all they want, but there's no getting around the fact that the president has stumbled badly in his second term (save for his successful SCOTUS nominees) and, depending upon one's point of view, developed a debilitating tin ear or, worse, slipped into a dysfunctional stubborness that borders on denial. The political capital he gained in the wake of the election returns in November, 2004, has been haphazardly squandered.

Having voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and again in 2004, I am among those in his "base" who have not necessarily defected at this juncture, but who have developed grave doubts as to whether the president will aggressively engage his detractors and, more importantly, listen to his supporters and begin taking the pulse of the American people. Right now, he is doing neither. The Conservative Movement and the George Bush presidency appear a marriage bound for a separation. Many conservatives appear ready to pull their wagons out of Bush's wagon train.

More so than ever before, this is a White House that rather than showcasing an "Open For Business" sign at the front door, opts instead for one that reads "Out To Lunch." The presidency seems, if not altogether adrift, hellbent on going down roads for which the warning signs clearly indicate a wrong direction has been taken down a one-way street, but for which George W. Bush chooses to be oblivious or irrevocably bullheaded. No surprise, Americans are following his paths of choice less and less and he seems not to care. Communication with the American people is happenstance and revolves, at best, around tired bromides. His has become an insular presidency.

Many think Iraq will be his undoing. I'm far more inclined to think that his open borders and Guest Worker Program bents will break him. Indeed, his well-camouflaged, "Amnesty-Light" GWP proposal, as Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) fittingly characterizes it, may, in the final analysis, prove to be the petard upon which his presidency is hoisted. 12 - 20 million illegal aliens in this country underscore that in an age of global terrorism the president talks national security, but can't see fit to secure our borders. That contradiction in terms has been distilled down to its essence in the UAE-owned Dubai Ports World deal. For this president, the only "national security issues" are overseas, not here at home right under his nose. The bumbling, ineffectual Department of Homeland Security attests to this. It should have another Condi Rice type at its helm. Instead, it has Michael Chertoff.

Early in the 2004 campaign, my brother and I had a discussion that I provoked whether it was politic for George Bush to keep Dick Cheney on the ticket. My thought was that Bush needed to set the stage in his second term for a hand-picked Republican successor. Reagan did that with Bush '41. And, after all, Cheney was clear in having no desire to run in 2008. But my brother -- more conservative in his politics than even I -- echoed the prevailing sentiment at the time in the conservative ranks of the GOP. Dick Cheney was the straw that stirred the drink for conservatives and he was integral to retaining "the base" for the president. In other words, Cheney's credentials as a conservative were more compelling for Republicans than the president's.

But the upshot is that we have a second term, lame duck president now who doesn't have the onus of setting the stage for the successful launch of a conservative successor in 2008. And lacking that and to the chagrin of those who thought Cheney was indispensable to the ticket in 2004, George Bush may be, by his acquiescence and uninterest, helping a psuedo-conservative, John McCain (RINO-AZ), take dead aim at the Oval Office. Indeed, Bush isn't creating a slipstream, but rather a vacumn; McCain is busy now siezing the advantage.