For a short time—let’s say September 11, 2001 January 19, 2005, it most decidedly was not the economy. Perhaps we could extend that to August 29th, 2005, but certainly no later. From the terrorist attacks through the 2004 elections, terror and war were the issues driving people to the polls, and President Bush was seen as a strong and decisive leader who could protect America.
Have you seen his numbers lately? They are dismal. In today’s CNN poll, only 32% of Americans said they approved of the job President Bush is doing. Even he can’t ignore numbers like that. But more telling are two other numbers that come out of the polls: Americans would favor a Democratic candidate for congress over a Republican, 50% to 40%, and a whopping 69% of Americans say they have been harmed by recent price increases.
In just a few days gasoline has jumped .25 cents a gallon. While helping me out in my personal quest to replace fossil fuels with bio-mass entirely (go Brazil!!), it is also really hurting the Grand Old Party. I’m tired of saying “this is what you get for putting oil executives in charge of the Whitehouse,” or comparing it to the old adage about foxes guarding hens or wolves sheep. But that, combined with the stunning rise in housing costs, and the drop in real wages, spells doom.
Looking back on it, I think the costliest blunder the president made recently—certainly since Katrina, was what he did when he went to India. I’m not talking about gutting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. American’s couldn’t care less about global politics. They hardly ever read the papers (like our president). But when he stood in a factory in Bangladore or wherever it was and said with a straight face “Outsourcing is good for America,” he committed mass suicide for the republican party, like Jim Jones leading them toward the Coolaide.
That “wooshing” sound you just heard was the American Dream being flushed down the toilet.
Even his rather principled and unusually moderate stance on immigration reform is backfiring on him, because no matter how much it may make good economic and business sense to have a fairly open immigration policy, Lou Dobbs will always be able to whip nervous Americans up into a xenophobic frenzy over the little brown people crossing the border to steal their jobs and hubcaps.
Six years ago, when Bush II got elected, a big deal was made out of the fact that while there had been lawyers and professors and soldiers in the Whitehouse, he would be the first MBA. We were going to have the corporate presidency. And look where it’s gotten us. On the one hand the corporations have reaped all the benefits of having a business friendly president, while on the other there is obviously a reason why Bush’s oil business failed. We are not talking a Jack Welsh or Warren Buffet level of management skill.
The saying during the Clinton administration was “it’s the economy stupid,” and, except for 2004, it was and it is. I said to JP back in 1996, only half facetiously, “it’s all about the money. The best president in the world could not get reelected if gas prices and unemployment are high, while if everybody’s got a job and a great big car, a guy could be selling little girls into slavery off the Whitehouse lawn and they’d still give him a second term.”
Well, Bush got his second term, but the elephants control congress and the courts to.
And judges have tenure.
And the president has no coattails.