Bush a liability for Republicans

George Bush likes his sleep. While campaigning for the presidency in 2000 his prize possession was a feather pillow. On the night that Saddam Hussein was executed he went to bed at 9 pm with strict orders not to be woken. When the then CIA director, George Tenet, tried to alert him to news of the first night’s bombing of Iraq he was sent away. “He is the type of person who sleeps at 9.30 pm after watching the news,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah told Okaz, a Saudi newspaper.

But one can’t help wondering if Karl Rove’s resignation might not disturb his slumber for his remaining months in the White House. Rove, Bush’s consigliere for the past 30 years, left last week in much the same manner as he had stayed: misleading the public. He told the nation that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Maybe he should have checked with his family first. His only son leaves for college in just a few days.

Rove is leaving because there is nothing more for him to do; Bush is letting him go because he no longer has any use for him. His departure effectively marks the end of the Bush presidency — from hereon in Bush’s tenure is about keeping the troops in Iraq and his administration out of handcuffs. Last week Fox News asked the neocon commentator Charles Krauthammer how much time Bush had to promote his agenda. “None,” said Krauthammer. “It’s over. There is no agenda.” But while the left loves to revel in Bush’s woes, it invariably revels in the wrong woes. Bush’s problem is not that he has failed on our terms — humanism, equality, peace and democracy — but that he has failed on his own.

So here we are. According to a Wall Street Journal poll, Americans would prefer the next president to be a Democrat by 52% to 31%. Meanwhile, the presumptive standard bearer for this new majority is treated like a pariah. As the Republican hopeful Mitt Romney pressed flesh in a restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, a few weeks ago, Muriel Allard said: “We need someone like him. They don’t care about us over there.” At a town hall meeting a couple of hours away in Keene, another Republican contender, John McCain, was asked last month if it wasn’t time to put a “warrior in chief” in the White House rather than these “draft dodgers”. Bush’s name never came up.

“Friends who were obnoxious in their praise for him just don’t mention him any more,” says Rick Holmes from Derry. “He’s like the embarrassing uncle you just don’t want to talk about.” A sense of doom among Republicans is palpable. A growing number of Republican congressmen have announced they are to retire, or are considering it. “Democrats will win the White House [and] hold their majority in the house and in the Senate in 2008,” the retiring congressman Ray Lahood said.

There is even talk that Republicans might not invite Bush to their convention. “If they’re smart, no,” the Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio told Newsweek. “Especially if things don’t change in Iraq, we’ll have the problem the Democrats had in 1968 with Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam. The question becomes: where do we hide the president?” Bush could run, but he can’t hide. Rove showed Bush how to win elections, but not how to govern. For the next year and a half he may need more than a feather pillow to get him to sleep. — The Guardian