Well, it's been a great second term. Now it's time to look to 2008 as if it's tomorrow. If you're listening to the Democrats, that is. But given that the Bush Administration offers nothing to counter, who else is there to listen to?
This fall has, without question, been Bush's worst so far, capping off probably his worst year, but it didn't have to be that way. Bush scored a huge victory this January with the Iraqi vote. He won again with the national approval of the constitution. And now, the people are going to vote in their representatives who will govern by their consent, within the bounds of law. And our troops are welcome there, as president Talabani has requested that U.S. troops remain in his nation
. Bush scored a number of foreign policy victories, not the least of which was a stand-down of the tension with North Korea, getting the likes of France on board with the war on terror (although recent events may make the urgency of same all the more clear to them), and getting French cooperation in the security council to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear program. He impressed his father and his predecessor into service to help raise cash for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Bush made a successful appointment to the Supreme Court in the form of John Roberts, and has offered another very promising and professionally attractive nominee, Samuel Alito.
But listening to the media, 2005 was about a few things: high gas prices, a poor response to hurricane Katrina, poor little Joe Wilson (and Valerie Plame, of course), big bad Karl Rove and the heretofore unknown Scooter Libby, 2000 troops dead, Harriet Miers, and Bush's sagging approval rate. But who are we kidding, as sure as the sun rises, the media will look for, and if necessary, invent an issue to in any way detract from even the greatest successes of this Administration. It's the Administration's job to do something about it. Bill Kristol adequately describes the problem in the Weekly Standard
And while Kristol said last week that the Bush Administration seemed to be back in the fight, and that it was time again to purchase Bush stock, Bush seems to have allowed a week of excellent developments collapse.
Yesterday, the White House spent the day in mandatory "ethics" meetings. A well-intentioned effort to be sure, but the way it was handled by the press office and the way it was reported makes it appear that the White House is taking its staff to the woodshed, and lent to the impression that the Democrats and the media have been trying to create, that there are problems with corruption in the Administration. No mention from anyone that the Administration regularly does these kinds of things, and that "ethics" was not the focus, but rather just a refresher on the standard White House policies regarding classified information and its discussion within and without the Administration.
And with respect to internal Administration issues, reports that there now exists a Clinton-Gore style divide between Bush and Cheney, as well as an unrequited issue about whether Karl Rove, the architect of all of Bush's successes, will retain his job create a very real impression that this Administration is broken on the inside.
The aforementioned request by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that U.S. forces remain n Iraq, and that a false timetable for withdrawal not be set to encourage the terrorists went largely unreported. Might it not be important in the President's battle to win this war that he turn the Iraqis against the media and the left who are questioning the validity and effectiveness of our presence in Iraq? A major PR opportunity missed.
Sam Alito's nomination will stall till January, thanks to Arlen Specter who could have, but refused, to push the matter to a vote before the holidays, giving the Democratic Caucus more time to circle the wagons for a stronger opposition to the judge. Bush might have pushed a little harder here, but forgetting the fact that Specter owes his political life to Bush after rescuing him from a very real and nearly successful primary challenge last year, Bush let it go, along with the momentum that the nomination carried with it.
And speaking of unrewarded campaign assistance, Bush went to push Jerry Kilgore's candidacy for governor in Virginia. Kilgore had an uphill battle to begin with, going against an appealing conservative Democrat who was the heir to a largely successful outgoing conservative Democrat. Bush knew well he would be embarrassed if Kilgore lost. He had nothing to gain by advancing this candidacy, and a loss would surely deal the Democrats yet one more thing to cheer about.
I am expecting that the next thing Bush will do to continue the fairly credible perception of Carterian presidential weakness, perhaps he should stage an on-camera meeting in the Oval Office with Cindy Sheehan.
In all reality, we didn't work ourselves to the bone to re-elect him only to have a lackluster second term.
It's time to clear out the communications team. They are responsive, not proactive. They do not seek to control the discussion, but rather defend themselves from it, which is ineffective. We need someone who will tell the press the way things are and who will argue the terms of the debate, and shift it over to the Administration's favor.
Bush needs to reaffirm Rove's presence in a personal way. He needs to dispel rumors that Rove is on his way out, and tell the public that various silly folk have been suggesting that Rove be booted simply because the Democrats accused him of wrongdoing which didn't happen. He needs to affirm that Rove is clean, and a member of the Administration to stay, and that that's all the discussion he'll permit about it.
And then he needs to do the things we elected him to do. The tax cuts need to be made permanent. He needs to fervently push the budget reforms that are now being only lightly discussed in the aftermath of Katrina. Energy policy needs to get back on the radar screen, and yes, he needs to be seen pushing it hard with Dick Cheney. More nuclear power, more investigation into domestic sources of energy, new and improved oil refinery technology. Because energy is fast becoming one of the biggest national security issues of our day.
And speaking of national security, we need the southern wall. Vincente Fox is just as bad a neighbor as Carlos Salinas ever was. But it's not as much about exporting dollars as it is importing drugs and Islamist terrorists. Interestingly, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) indicated that a wall built along the San Diego area border with Mexico was very successful. The influx of illegals and the drug trade was dramatically reduced, and the barrier, intended to be three walls, was left a two, because it two walls seemed successful enough. And people on the other side of the border appreciated the affects of the wall. Residents of Tijuana were pleased, as the gangs that would marshal there moved elsewhere, having been foiled by the wall.
And we need to have regular updates on progress in Iraq and the global war on terror. Iraq will be judged by history to be Bush's biggest mistake or one of the most effective steps ever taken towards a lasting world peace. But for right now, he has let it become defined by the media's false milestone of the number of soldiers dead. This is Bush's strongest issue by far, and he needs to restore his credibility in this regard by taking the issue back over.
It's a lot to do, but a nation did not reelect him just to coast.
And if he fails to do it, we are in for quite a stagnant three years, with a near certain Democrat victory in 2008.