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Deadly partisanship in a dangerous world…
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 11/4/05
It is said
that power corrupts which is, perhaps, the principal argument
for term limits. What is it about second terms that makes them
so difficult to survive? Nixon, reelected by a landslide, was
done in by his own lies over Watergate. Clinton faced impeachment
for lying about his sexual affair with a White House intern.
The immensely popular Dwight Eisenhower had to deal with a
scandal involving his chief of staff and the equally popular
Ronald Reagan had the Iran-Contra scandal to contend with.
Do second term presidents simply become so confident that they
just lose focus?
J.F. Kelly, Jr.
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive
who writes on current events and military subjects.
He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
of George W. Bush appears to be imploding less than a year
his reelection and with his party in control
of both houses of Congress, yet. Diehard supporters of Mr. Bush
are quick to blame liberals and the polarization of Americans
on such issues as the Iraq conflict and abortion for the president’s
difficulties but the truth of the matter is that he has brought
most of them on himself
His advisors waged
a brilliant reelection campaign, compared, at least, to John
Kerry’s dreadfully inept campaign featuring
the Vietnam protestor as a war hero. Following his decisive victory,
Mr. Bush confidently articulated his foreign and domestic agenda
amidst strong approval ratings. The future seemed bright. Now,
less than a year later, his approval ratings have plunged and
his credibility and prestige, both at home and abroad have been
Actually, second term
presidents have every incentive to perform strongly. Although
they may never have to face another grueling
election, they are striving hard to secure their places in history
as great presidents. It is a powerful incentive because historians
will focus heavily upon second term accomplishments. Mr. Bush’s
second term accomplishments thus far will do little to secure
the favorable judgments of historians or anyone else.
His campaign to reform
social security by privatizing it has been a conspicuous failure.
Medicare, in far more urgent need
of reform, would have been a wiser choice. His hugely expensive
prescription benefit program is so complex that most seniors
can’t understand it and many feel that the benefits do
not warrant the cost to the taxpayers. Speaking of complicated
programs, both the president and Congress seem deaf to pleas
from their constituents to simplify the obscenely complicated
tax code, which the average American cannot fathom without professional
In spite of overwhelming
public sentiment for federal action to get control of our borders
and end, not just slow, illegal
immigration, the president seems unwilling to defy the business
community’s addiction to cheap, illegal labor and take
a firm stand on this explosive crisis.
The president’s nomination of Harriet Miers to replace
Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court was a blunder
of epic proportions. It put him at odds with his conservative
support base, which he cannot afford to alienate. How could he
have possibly expected that his little-known legal advisor with
no experience as a judge or in constitutional law, could obtain
the support necessary to survive today’s contentious confirmation
process? Wasn’t it obvious to him that senators would demand
details and documents relating to her service as White House
legal advisor, materials that the White House could not provide
without compromising attorney-client privilege? Did it not occur
to him that appointing a staff member with whom he had close
daily contact and of whose unswerving conservative beliefs he
was supremely confident, would smack of cronyism? What he was,
in effect, saying, was “Trust me, I know this woman.” Not
good enough. Not with so many qualified conservative jurists
with impeccable credentials available. The embarrassing withdrawal
of her nomination confirmed that Mr. Bush blew this one and called
his judgment into question.
Now comes the Libby fiasco. A key White House aide, I. Lewis
(Scooter) Libby, one of the most important advisors to both Bush
and Vice President Dick Cheney, stands indicted on charges of
lying to federal investigators. Although he was not charged,
as widely believed, of revealing the identity of a secret operative,
the charges are still serious and carry hefty penalties. Can
things possibly get worse for the president? Unfortunately, they
We are, remember, in the midst of a war on terrorism. We have,
moreover, made a commitment to establish a free government in
Iraq, a commitment sealed with the blood of over 2000 brave Americans
and many more Iraqis. Contrary to consistently negative press
coverage, which the administration has not effectively countered,
much has been accomplished. Far too much progress has been gained
to abandon this effort now. Iraq has had free elections and now
has a constitution. There is still much to be done, however,
and progress will not be facilitated with a wounded Bush administration
focusing on domestic damage control.
The current travails of the administration should offer little
cause for rejoicing, even to Bush bashers. The world is a very
dangerous place and our security will not be enhanced by a weakened
president. It is time for the president and his advisors to get
a better grip on things and for his detractors to tone down the
anti-Bush rhetoric and put the interests of the nation first. tOR
2005 J. F. Kelly, Jr.