22 September 2005

The Cheese Stands Alone

Here’s a riddle I’ve been thinking about:

Imagine George W. Bush receives an unexpected visit
from some higher power (Jesus, Santa Claus, Superman,
take your pick) and offers him the chance to go back to
one of his previous jobs before he became president.
With a mere snap of the fingers or wiggle of the nose,
George could instantly go back to being the governor of
Texas or the owner of a baseball team or even an oil
executive. No one would have any memory of President
George W. Bush. All his current headaches, from
hurricanes to gas prices to the War on Terrorism, would
become someone else’s problem -- Al Gore, perhaps.

Would he do it?

We’ll never know.
But I’m pretty sure he’d take his time thinking it over.

Newsweek reports:

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be
quoted because it might displease the president, did
not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White
House staffers were watching the evening news and
thought the president needed to see the horrific
reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor
Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush
could see them in their entirety as he flew down to
the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be -- how the president of the United
States could have even less "situational awareness,"
as they say in the military, than the average
American about the worst natural disaster in a
century -- is one of the more perplexing and
troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments
of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a
national disgrace.

It’s been clear to Bush critics for many years now that
“situational awareness” has never been this president’s
strong suit, but it is nice to see the mainstream media
notice it for a change. I suppose the destruction of a
major American city and over a thousand dead citizens
is a bit of an eye-opener.

But the president has bigger problems than the
news media.

From yesterday’s Washington Post:

Congressional Republicans from across the
ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White
House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf
Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that
George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his
presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.

Trying to allay mounting concerns, White House
budget director Joshua B. Bolten met with Republican
senators for an hour after their regular Tuesday
lunch. Senators emerged to say they were annoyed
by the lack of concrete ideas for paying the
Hurricane Katrina bill.

"Very entertaining," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said
sarcastically as he left the session. "I haven't heard
any specifics from the administration."

"At least give us some idea" of how to cover the cost,
said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing
reelection in 2006. "We owe that to the American

The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White
House is also confronting among House Republicans,
represents the loudest and most widespread dissent
Bush has faced from his own party since it took full
control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the
president's approval numbers falling, there is
growing concern among lawmakers that GOP
margins in Congress could shrink next year, and
even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that
Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that
must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.

It’s bad enough when a president with a 40% approval
rating has to deal with (ie. ignore) stubborn war
and angry gas consumers. But a rebellious
Republican party was never part of the bargain.

Even the conservative blogosphere (“the most close-
minded, insular, circular pits of denial I’ve ever
encountered,” writes Jesse Taylor) is starting to change
its tune. Dan Drezner documents the backlash, here.

Add to the mix the war in Iraq -- a war that less
than half
of America still believes can be won.

Here’s the latest good news from the White House:

Bush told Americans to brace for more violence and
accused insurgent leader Abu Musab-al Zarqawi of
trying to trigger a civil war with a series of attacks.

"Today, our commanders made it clear: As Iraqis
prepare to vote on their constitution in October and
elect a permanent government in December, we
must be prepared for more violence," Bush said.

Have no fear. If there is one thing this government
understands, it is the importance of being prepared.

But if I were in George’s shoes, a cushy job with the
Texas Rangers would look pretty nice right about now.
Then again, so would a Texas-sized shot of straight