Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Scooter and Gonzo and Pace, oh my

It’s difficult to catalogue all the latest conservative grievances against George W. Bush, but let’s give it a try:

Conservatives wanted Bush to retain Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but last Thursday Bush dumped him. Conservatives want Bush to pardon Scooter Libby (who, after all, merely lied under oath to impede a national security investigation), but Bush refuses to do it. Conservatives want Bush to dump attorney general Alberto Gonzales (whom they consider an incompetent toady), but Bush won’t do that either.

So here’s the right-wing recipe thus far: Keep Pace, free Scooter, ditch Gonzo. Whereas the Bush recipe is: ditch Pace, ditch Scooter, keep Gonzo.

Then add the immigration ingredient, and you’ve got a bubbling cauldron. Conservatives want Bush to ditch his reform bill, the compromise deal that would give 12 million illegals a path to citizenship. But Bush refuses to do that either.

Lately, the Bush-bashing on the right has become nearly as virulent as the Bush-bashing on the left - which I suppose is another way to gauge the political death throes of this administration. He might wish that he had stayed a bit longer in Albania.

For instance, Bill Kristol, the conservative activist and commentator, is furious today that Bush won’t wield his pen on Libby’s behalf; he thinks that Bush is “selfish,” fearful of the political backlash that a Libby pardon might trigger, and motivated by a “petty desire to avoid some additional criticism.”

The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial writers added their ire yesterday: “With Mr. Libby, what is Mr. Bush afraid of – jeopardizing his 33 percent approval rating? A pardon would be a two-day story…his supporters would cheer to see the president standing by the man who stood by him when others in his administration cut and ran.”

Washington attorney Victoria Toensing, a prominent conservative voice, linked two of the grievances and came up with this sound bite: “If the president can pardon 12 million illegal immigrants, he can pardon Scooter Libby.” This quote turned up yesterday in a column by Robert Novak, the conservative pundit who lately has become a conduit for aggrieved conservative Bush-bashers, most of whom are ranting behind the cloak of anonymity in the hopes that the Bush White House will notice their smoke signals.

These sources are linking the Gonzo and Scooter grievances. From Novak: “Prevailing opinion among Republican office holders, contributors and activists could not differ more from Bush’s posture. They regard Libby as a valuable public servant…Republican insiders are enraged by Bush’s retention of Gonzales, whom they consider a political and governmental disaster (presiding over) a crippled, leaderless Justice Department.”

Others suggest that Bush’s credibility on the immigration issue is shot, because he has so little credibility in general. Rich Lowry at the National Review, writing today, even manages to work Gonzo into the mix: “The backdrop to all this, of course, is the Iraq war. The government of the United States presented to the world intelligence that turned out to be wrong. It insisted we were making steady progress in the guerrilla war when, by the end of 2006, we were facing catastrophe. And it has still managed only fitful progress against an enemy whose main weapon is homemade bombs. This casts a pall over our public life, augmented by Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, corruption in Congress, paranoiac ranting on the Left, and incompetence in high places (see: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales).”

Still others are equally incensed about the ditching of Peter Pace. Last Friday, the Bush team announced it had decided not to re-nominate Gen. Pace for a new term as Joint Chiefs chairman, because it knew that Pace would be grilled about the Iraq war during his Senate confirmation hearings. That decision has really ticked off the conservative base, which is accusing Bush of timidity under fire.

More grievance linkage, this time from a blogger at redstate.com, the popular grassroots conservative website: “Pace is being ungraciously sacrificed at the altar of capitulation to the antiwar movement…Bush seems more interested in standing by a struggling attorney general…Why, after such a military career, does Gen. Pace find (himself) alone in an open field, with no cover fire? Because the political expediency of his superiors is of greater concern…Throwing yet another faithful servant under the bus for political expediency is NO WAY to honor and respect this Soldier, Warfighter, and American Patriot.”

The Wall Street Journal editorialists chimed in yesterday: “Is George W. Bush still president? We can’t help but wonder.” Dumping Pace “only makes Mr. Bush look weaker as a commander in chief who can’t even select his own war generals.” Dumping Pace is tantamount to “appeasement.”

An appeaser who won’t secure our borders? A “selfish” and “petty” president who’s afraid of political fallout? This is not the Bush image that his handlers sought to nurture back in ’03 when they dressed him in that flight suit. And history tells us that an incumbent party has a tough time staying in office when its own base is deeply disenchanted.


By the way, here was Bush yesterday, complaining about all those U.S. senators who persist in going after Gonzo: "This process has been drug out a long time."

Drug out? It would appear that, in some long-ago grammar class, a certain child got left behind.