Tuesday, April 18, 2006 :::
Reading Dick Morris is like seeing an accident on the freeway -- I don't want to look, but it's almost impossible not to sneak a peek at the carnage (and in the case of Morris, he just might be sucking on another prostitute's toes). In this NY Post piece, Morris comes out swinging hard, comparing Bush to Jimmy Carter. Agree or not, it's not an entirely far-fetched comparison:
Bush has truly become the Republican equivalent of President Jimmy Carter, out of control, dropping in popularity, unable to resume command. He barely skated through 2004 using the issue of terrorism. But his very success in preventing further attacks has eroded the strength of the issue and has undermined its political importance. Tax cuts, the cause celebre of his 2000 campaign, have long since been passed and yielded their economic growth. But they're long gone as a key issue.
Yet Bush, like his father, fails to invent issues to give his presidency a new lease on life. Is he too tired or lazy to do so? Does he not believe in government doing very much in the first place? Or is he so preoccupied with Iraq - as Carter was with the hostage crisis - that he can't divert his attention to new issues?
While there are elements of this comparison that ring true, there are others that miss the mark entirely. Yes, falling approval ratings have hamstrung any sort of agenda Bush might have wished to implement since the election. And he is not helped by a congressional approval rating that's at its lowest in 12 years (since 1994, eh? Wonder what happened then?)
But second term malaise is not unique to Bush -- surely Morris, of all people, knows that. Does anyone remember Reagan's second term? Iran-Contra knocked the knees right out from under the Gipper, and almost destroyed his presidency. But after a through house cleaning (whatever did happen to Don Regan?), things got back on track and he went out of office on a high enough note to help Bush I win in 1988.
And let's not forget the second Clinton term. Something about impeachment...
And then there was Nixon. 'Nuff said.
But, always hustling for business, Morris offers a list of issues that might put Bush back on the right side of events, if not the polls. Except his medicine is exactly the sort that will convince the base to stay home for good. I mean good God -- global warming? Drug testing in schools? Ethanol? Morris may believe wedge issues win elections (a la school uniforms under Clinton), but these are the sorts of issues that will send free market conservatives running for the exits and never looking back.
Rather than peddle a series of repainted Gore platform planks, perhaps the President would be better served by following the Reagan 2 model (post Iran-Contra, that is).
First, clean out the cabinet. Donald Rumsfeld is a lightning rod, but not a beneficial one. Think James Watt, without the charm. Replace him with someone the press loves, who also tends to be a relatively strong supporter of the War: John McCain.
John Snow (a Richmonder), should be sent packing and a true-blue, pro-growth replacement found immediately. My pick: Steve Forbes.
The chief of staff job has already changed hands (to Josh Bolten). More changes in staff are needed immediately.
If your serious about energy, then get serious about ANWR and nuclear power. It's borderline criminal that this nation locks up its resources to appease the fetish-like worship of nature. Every acre of wilderness placed beyond human touch puts another billion dollars in the pockets of a foreign oil producer. And the time has long-since come for us to follow (dare I say it?) the lead of France in nuclear energy production.
But more than anything -- use that veto pen. The only way to enforce even a modicum of spending discipline on Congress is to veto an appropriations bill. Put the weight of their choices (or lack of choices) back on their shoulders. The President will earn enemies this way. But Congress has rarely proved to be his friend when it comes to spending.
There's more that can and should be done - these are just a sample. If you've got ideas, I'd love to see them.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 4/18/2006