President George W. Bush not only extended his stay at the White House during the general election last year, his party also managed to increase its majority hold in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It was an impressive feat, and the administration must have thought it could do no wrong with such an overwhelming hold on the nation’s power centers. But following a number of indictments, ongoing scandals and the already disastrous yet quickly deteriorating situation in Iraq, the GOP has successfully done what Democrats couldn’t manage in last year’s election: illustrate the shortcomings ranging from trivial to catastrophic within the administration.
The situation in Iraq, for example, continues to spin out of control. It’s been doing so ever since Bush prematurely proclaimed “mission accomplished” in May 2003, but during the election the GOP successfully convinced the public the “liberal media” was focusing on the bad news while ignoring progress being made.
Now with the death toll of American soldiers alone passing 1,900 with no end in sight, the president himself recently warned tough times lay ahead. This was little more than an acknowledgment of what his military advisers had been saying for months.
The public is now more aware of the fact that it was the president’s own insistence that put American soldiers in Iraq. It is also increasingly aware that while Bush told his opponent Al Gore during a televised debate in 2000 he did not believe U.S. forces should engage in “nation building” unless a clear exit strategy was laid out in advance, his insistence to “stay the course” and lack of an exit strategy continue to make American troops a target.
In the 2000 election Bush vowed to “restore honor” to the White House, yet it is becoming clearer by the day that a top adviser within the White House leaked the identity of a CIA operative in order to undermine the credibility of a political opponent.
Federal auditors also ruled Friday it was illegal for Bush aides to pay “journalists” for favorable coverage, a tactic the administration repeatedly employed while attempting to drum up support for its policies.
In 1992 and 1994, the call to restore order to what was publicly perceived as a dysfunctional government helped Republicans take power of the House and Senate for the first time in decades. Democrats now have the potential to take a similar route to regain power in next year’s midterm elections.
To their advantage, it is becoming increasingly hard to claim the Republican Party stands for ethics and against corruption when the two of its highest representatives have been indicted for violating rules concerning both.
Tom DeLay had to resign his post as House majority leader over allegations he committed “criminal conspiracy.” His attempt to portray himself as the victim by enumerating his myriad of other attempted indictments and actual ethics violations as proof that Democrats were out to get him were so laughable The Daily Show with Jon Stewart played them without much commentary.
Sometimes the guilty are just that: guilty.
In the same week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was indicted for insider trading. He had sold stock two weeks before the company announced it would not meet prior projections and is said to have earned millions in the deal. This, along with the congressional stunt to “rescue” Terri Schiavo and thereby meddle in not merely state but also personal affairs, likely ended his bid in the 2008 presidential elections before he even had a chance to announce his candidacy.
What makes these developments so excruciating is the simple fact that they are largely unnecessary. The GOP had it all, yet is now slowly but surely self-destructing. It is not only collectively undermining the political power Bush wields as outgoing president, it is dooming itself to fighting problems arising from its own ineptitude, including setting the stage for harder campaigns in 2006 and possibly even 2008.
Democrats must not endeavor to offer viable alternatives. Only if they manage to do so will American voters see an opportunity to emerge from their Stockholm syndrome-like behavior of clinging to the belief their president cannot do wrong while facts point to the contrary.
Sebastian Meyer is a former Oracle Opinion Editor and a senior majoring in firstname.lastname@example.org