Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Solid granite"

A guy can get weary talking so much about the "Bush bubble," but how can one ignore the topic when the president keeps supplying fresh evidence of its existence? Witness his interview yesterday on ABC News. He was asked at one point about a statement that he made right after his 2004 re-election ("I have political capital, and I intend to spend it"). That prompted the question, Does he think he still has political capital, given the fact that the national polls show him to be more unpopular than ever before?
His answer: "I've got ample capital, and I'm using it to spread freedom...If I worried about polls, I would be -- I wouldn't be doing my job."
Let's unpack that one. By any objective measure, he does not have "ample capital" anymore, because his own Republican allies on Capitol Hill are in open revolt - defying his stance on the Dubai ports deal, and insisting that his domestic spying program be subject to congressional oversight, among other things. As one House staffer told the conservative Washington Times, in today's paper, "No longer will Republicans simply fall into line on major issues when they disagree with the president." In fact, they have already derailed a key facet of Bush's second-term agenda - the Social Security privatization plan, which he kept stumping for long after it was politically dead - because they were afraid of running on that issue in the 2006 congressional election. And currently they are girding for a fight with Bush over illegal immigration, which they (and many of their voters) see as a critical national security problem that Bush has refused to address.
The point is, even if Bush isn't "worried about the polls," his Republican allies are. They can't help noticing that Bush in the polls is heading toward Richard Nixon territory (or Bill Clinton territory, circa 1994). That affects how they do their job. And that has to affect how Bush does his job, even though his statement above doesn't seem to take into account congressional sensitivities.
As for the other part of his remark, that he is "spreading freedom," one need only note the grim developments these days in Iraq - as well as in Washington, where the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency testified yesterday that, contrary to Bush's claim again yesterday that "we're making progress," the anti-American insurgency actually "remains strong and resilient."
No wonder Conrad Burns, a Republican senator facing a tough re-election fight, told an audience on Monday that Bush is a stubborn guy, that his head is "solid granite."
Yesterday, Burns' PR guy rushed forward to say that Burns was just joking.