Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dubya's Doldrums

Political capital? What political capital? Everyone seems to have their own explanation as to why President Bush's second term, which had a lot of momentum at its outset, has ground to a virtual halt. While David Broder offers "scandal" as an answer in today's Washington Post, I think the administration's current woes can be summed up in one word: fatigue. No, I'm not referring to that theory popularly reported in the media some weeks ago that key Bush staffers weren't getting enough Zzzs. The problem as I see is it that no issue has been able to capture and hold the attention of the American public.

Of course, this has partly worked in his favor, as the attacks that he or the Republican Party have faced over a litany of sore spots seem to have come exclusively from newspaper editorial pages and the blogosphere. Meanwhile, the general public seems to have tuned out ever since they grew weary of being disgusted with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Unfortunately, Iraq fatigue seems to have set in, as the latest headline news coming out of the country is being ignored by the public as more of the same. Cindy Sheehan and the anti-war crowd aren't active and getting press attention like they were a year ago. Reports of a possible massacre of Iraqi civilians by Marines in Haditha has not produced the same widespread reaction that the Abu Ghraib story did when it broke. And lastly, recent political developments in Iraq--both positive and negative--have been underreported.

That's just on the Iraq front however. Congressional scandal has hit both sides of the aisle, with Democrats getting their holier-than-thou image dealt a blow when stacks upon stacks of big-note bills (to the tune of $90,000) were found in the freezer of Lousiana Rep. William Jefferson. And how about the President's major initiatives? The big push for Social Security reform, which was touted over a year ago as necessary in order to avert a crisis, has been buried. In its place: immigration reform. While this issue has raised some passionate feelings on all sides, I think that most people, myself included, feel like this is another issue in which much discussion will take place and ultimately no meaningful legislation will pass.

On the subject of things blowing over, how about that domestic surveillance "scandal"? For the most part, the public has shrugged and looked the other way. Personally, I'm not given to public gloating very often, but humor me by recalling my December post "Spying Storm Will Blow Over." At the time I wrote "this is not going to be the major scandal some predict" and "most of the discourse will take place in the editorial pages of major newspapers and unfortunately not on the proverbial 'street corners.'" Told ya so!

It is too early to write off the rest of Bush's term. I want to see him rebound and get some meaningful accomplishments done. For his sake and the country's, it is important that we figure out how to get Iraq right, make sure Iran doesn't go wrong, steer the economy away from a slowdown, and deal with other foreign and domestic items on the agenda. Time is running out for you, Mr. President, but I don't think it's too late. Find a fresh way to get us all engaged again.

1 comment:

ABT said...

Dead on assessment of the situation I thought, especially where the apathy of the public is concerned. Maybe it's just because I'm an apathetic college kid who doesn't keep up with the news, but it all rang true to me. And, nice call on the spying scandal :)