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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

September, 2005

 

George Bush: Already Lame Duck?
By Domenico Maceri

Although George Bush has more than three years left in his second term as president, he is already showing signs of being lame duck. Soon after being reelected Bush stated he had "political capital" to spend and he was going to do so. It seems that the country is not buying it.
His proposal to privatize Social Security is not going anywhere. Bush managed to scare some people with his gloom and doom predictions of Social Security's demise, yet even some Republicans have shown skepticism. Although Bush is continuing to campaign about privatizing part of the Social Security program, Democratic opposition combined with that of some Republicans means that he will not have his way.
The partnership between Democrats and about 50 Republican members of the House of Representatives gave Bush a definite loss on stem cell research. The House passed a bill recently that would expand federally funded stem cell research. The bill would allow researchers to use about 400,000 embryos created through in vitro fertilization. These would be discarded otherwise. Bush has threatened to veto the measure which according to some polls is supported by 60% of Americans.
And then, of course, there are Bush's nominations for judges and other officials, which have created many problems for the US Senate. By continuing to nominate extreme right wingers, Bush has forced Republican senators to fight with their Democratic counterparts about the long-held practice of filibustering.
Republicans have the majority in Senate but a coalition of Democratic and Republican senators reached a compromise and the filibuster still stands. A particularly weak nomination by Bush has been that of John Bolton whom the president picked to be the UN ambassador. Bolton has a long history of being undiplomatic and seems to be totally unsuited for the job. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, has pointed out that Bolton is "arrogant" and that he has bullied "those who do not have the ability to defend themselves." Even former Secretary of State Colin Powell is not supporting Bolton. Bolton's confirmation could be another test for the survival of the filibuster.
Unable to get Bolton's confirmation, Bush appointed him UN ambassador while Senate in on recess.
Independent-minded Republicans such as Voinovich can cause the president problems. Yet, he is more vulnerable with other Republican moderates who are beginning to posture for the next presidential election. Given Bush's right wing policies, people such as John McCain are beginning to move away and show independence, which suggests looking ahead to 2008.
The country is also moving away from Bush. The president's approval rate has gone down to 43%, according to a recent Associated Press poll. Only 35% of Americans believe that the country is headed in the right direction. Another Washington Post-ABC poll found that 52% of Americans believe that the Iraqi war has not made the country safer. And the same poll found that 3/4 of Americans view the number of casualties in Iraq as unacceptable.
Bush has more than three years left in his term and does not have to worry about being re-elected. He could then act based on what he truly believes. He could, for example, spend some of his fast-declining political capital to push for comprehensive immigration reform which Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy have introduced. It'd be easy to support it since the plan reflects to a large extent the proposal Bush made last year.
Bush could also switch course and become a uniter rather than the divider he has been. Uniting the country would mean moving to the political center, which he has clearly abandoned.
In Iraq it's difficult to switch gears and it's quite likely that the next president will have to deal with it. Bush must be beginning to think about his legacy. Unless he changes course and accomplishes something, he will be remembered for getting a united country soon after 9/11 and turning it into a completely divided one through his reckless policies.
Domenico Maceri ([email protected]), PhD, UC Santa Barbara, teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA. His articles have appeared in many newspapers and some have won awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.

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