by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - May 9, 2005) In the summer of 2002, a top advisor to George Bush warned the journalist and author Ron Suskind that the administration's custom-made illusory world would override the real world. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." ("Without a Doubt," by Ron Suskind, The New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004.)
Sure enough, many of the administration's created realities were confidently disseminated by the toady media. Although prominent authorities disagreed, most of the public ate it up. In time those "realities" -- WMDs, Saddam and Osama links, Iraqi cakewalks, etc. -- encountered legitimate realities. And Americans discovered that an administration guilty of fraud had conned them into war. A war that will kill and maim who knows how many innocent lives; will destroy the property and infrastructure of Iraq; and will create US budget deficits of billions and billions of dollars.
Did the media, a media that failed its watchdog function by not spotting and exposing the fraud, redeem itself by pouncing on and playing up this horrendous scandal? No; instead their pundits and columnists sympathized with poor ole Dubya, whom they insisted was misled by bad intelligence. Did the Democrats exploit and wrest political capital from those deceits? No! Why? Are they not the opposition? In time more and more unreal "realities" will come to light. And each one will enmesh Bush in more difficulties. There is an appropriate saying: "Give him enough rope and he'll hang himself."
It looks like two of his allies, in hot water right now, may have grabbed enough rope to do just that. John Bolton is example number one. His super-exaggerated lying and abusive conduct have exposed him as a bully and a scoundrel. His accumulated rope might not hang him but it's being put to good use by displaying all of his dirty linen. Representative Tom DeLay, example number two, is discovering that his corruption and dirty tactics could be covered up just so long. Eventually the truth comes out.
Both of these culprits may escape the consequences but neither one will walk away whole. Their effectiveness will be diminished. And by their close identification with the Bush administration it will also suffer.
Many additional factors are diminishing GWB's standing with the public. The campaign to sell Social Security reform is attracting no buyers. Ditto for the Terri Schiavo "pro-life" fiasco. The euphoria of the Iraqi elections is wearing thin with casualties constantly rising and recruitments constantly falling. The economy, always a major factor, is going south. Prices at the gas pump go up, up, up; the Dow Jones industrials goes down -- almost 800 points over the past two months; the deficit grows and grows; and the once mighty dollar shrinks against other currencies.
How does the eminent Dr. Gallup, with fingers on the pulse of the public opinion, diagnose these symptoms? Results of an early-April poll on a few pertinent issues, listing percentages in the order of (1) approval; (2) disapproval; and (3) highest previous approval, were as follows:
- How Bush is handling the job: 48/48/76;
- the situation in Iraq: 43/54/76;
- terrorism 57/40/83;
- the economy 41/55/60.
An article in Editor and Publisher online comparing Bush with prior presidents states " . . . Bush's approval rating has plunged to the lowest level of any president since World War II at this point in his second term, the Gallup Organization reported today. . . . All other presidents who served a second term had approval ratings well above 50% in the March following their election... Bush's current rating is 45%. The next lowest was Reagan with 56% in March 1985. . . . Here are the approval ratings for presidents as recorded by Gallup (all for March): Truman, 1949: 57%. Eisenhower, 1957: 65%. Johnson, 1965: 69%. Nixon, 1973: 57%. Reagan, 1985: 56%. Clinton, 1997: 59%. Bush, 2005: 45%."
If the ABBers had been successful and gotten their savior Kerry into the Oval Office, how different would the picture be? No one could possibly know. "What if" is an unknowable speculation with infinite scenarios that can be conjured up by anyone who plays the game. But certain basic facts can not be denied and reasonable assumptions can be made.
Kerry would be availing himself with the six-month honeymoon new presidents usually receive. Most, if not all, of the economic problems would still exist but they would be blamed on the prior administration. Kerry's more hawkish policies would be implemented quite easily. The Republicans certainly wouldn't oppose a continuation of their Iraq war. The few Democrats who finally got the courage to buck Bush, would be reluctant to oppose their party's more hawkish leader, when they had previously backed Bush. And the anti-war movement would suffer as euphoria at beating Bush would satisfy many protesters. Anti-war momentum collapsed when the Iraq war started; disappointed that they had not stopped it, many retired from the movement.
Second-term, lame-duck incumbents who won landslide reelection have run into difficulties. FDR's court packing scheme was opposed by trusted allies and he could not muster support of his own party; Nixon resigned in disgrace rather than face impeachment.
Unless the administration changes major political policies, the inertia of negative momentum, interrupted periodically by a bounce, will likely continue. But a change is highly unlikely from Bush and the neo-cons with their defiance of reality. In desperation however, those crazies might resort to tactics whose consequences would be catastrophic.
Bush's ratings decline resembles his first year in office. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and his belligerent response miraculously and quickly transformed an incompetent dolt into a heroic wartime leader. Numerous persuasive articles, books, and studies, citing the enormous benefits that accrued to the administration, charge it with complicity in the attacks. Whether or not there is any truth to such claims, knowing how unscrupulously they inveigled the country into war and how criminally they have been waging that war, isn't it conceivable that they might utilize another and more devastating "terrorist attack" to regain their heroic stature?
Or if they are even more desperate, they might resort to -- perish the thought -- the ultimate WMD, THE BIG BOMB!