Bush tugs whole party

In 2004 President Bush is trying to get a majority for not just himself (it would be a first), but for the entire Grand Old Party, the Washington Post somewhat obviously reports: “Don’t give me ‘a lonely victory.’ Said one top Bush adviser, ‘He said, “I don’t want what Nixon had. I don’t want what Reagan had.”’”

The article notes that while Bush is still very popular and he will have about $200 million ($170 says the NY Times) by the ‘04 primaries, there are some issues which stand in the way: no WMDs but continued violence in Iraq, the economy, and what would happen if another terrorist attack happened. The Post adds, “Early polls show Bush receiving the support of less than 50 percent of the public when matched against a generic Democratic nominee.” What they fail to mention is that this number drops significantly when you put in the name of any of the nine Democratic contenders.

There is the obvious danger of this Bush-for-all all-for-Bush strategy (that has GOP operatives going around and finding like-Bush minded candidates to run for office) that Bush will foul up. As the story mentions one terrorist attack could do a lot to damage Bush, and already the Democrats are taking a crack at the downward sloping economy. There is also the possibility that one of the myriad investigations into September 11th or the Iraqi war push would fine a 'smoking gun' against Bush's presidency, whatever that means.

While this is all quite possible, it is also just as unlikely (and any Democrat counting on a terrorist incident to win them an election is sick). Bush has done a great job of distancing himself from the people around him. How was he supposed to now what the F.B.I. was doing? How was he supposed to know anything other than what the C.I.A. told him? He trusted them to do their jobs, if they didn't, it's not his fault.

On the economy he also has a bit of a defense, 'Hey, I tried to help it, I introduced a tax cut, but the Democrats chopped it down.' While that isn't the whole story (Republicans went about decreasing the gargantuan thing too), he has these perceptions on his side. (For instance Reagan supporters still argue that if Reagan had gotten all of his tax plans passed the economy would have done better than it had, and Bush is basically in the same sort of position, advancing Reaganonomics and getting only parts of it through, but Bush will still get most all of the credit when things improve.)

The other more mixed obstacles are still on the fringe: What sort a Supreme Court justice will he pick? If there is an ideological battle what will the Democrats do, what will the public think? There is also the possibility that homosexual issues will come to the forefront soon (already there was this talk, before the gay marriage legislation in Canada), how will Bush handle these? Can he balance a compassionate conservatism with his far-right base?

Overall though, things look exceedingly good for Bush in politics. The only people really against him are the left's basic base (not to be redundant), with the moderates caught in what could be perceived as patriotic-mode, afraid of protesting the president, or at least seeing no really quantitative reason to be a staunch opponent of him.

The president has also successfully co-opted traditional liberal issues to his side: What he has done with Medicaid is brilliant, turning the Democrats strongpoint and making them his own and, ingeniously, even having Democrats (like Senator Tom Daschle) opposing his plan (though likely they won't vote against it) while convincing the public of its merits.

Another issue where I think he did a more-than-apparent brilliant job is the tax cuts. The Democrats waged a long battle, in 2001 and just last month, over the principle of tax cuts. But, Bush got the biggest and third biggest tax cuts in American history anyway. Then, and here's the kicker, he got the Democrats to want another tax cut by (someone) leaving out tax cuts for the low-income families. While this may not have been his plan, it is unimaginably ironic that the Democrats would battle and battle not just the specifics but the ideology of the tax cuts, only to have the cuts pass, then the Democrats want more taxes cut. [Senator Tom Delay, for one, sees the irony another way, and has aligned himself with Wall Street Journal in fighting against the 'lucky duckies' who get tax cuts on taxes they don't pay.]

Posted by Ry Rivard at June 21, 2003 11:27 PM