President Bush is having trouble with his base, at least the intellectual part of the base.
After three years of sweeping actions in both foreign and domestic affairs, the Bush administration is facing complaints from the conservative intelligentsia that it has lost its ability to produce fresh policies.
Conservatives have become unusually restive. Last Tuesday, columnist George F. Will sharply criticized the administration’s Iraq policy, writing: “This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts.” Two days earlier, Robert Kagan, a neoconservative supporter of the Iraq war, wrote: “All but the most blindly devoted Bush supporters can see that Bush administration officials have no clue about what to do in Iraq tomorrow, much less a month from now.”
The complaints about Bush’s Iraq policy are relatively new, but they are in some ways similar to long-standing criticism about Bush’s domestic policies. In a book released earlier this year, former Bush Treasury secretary Paul H. O’Neill described Bush as “a blind man in a room full of deaf people” and said policymakers put politics before sound policy judgments.
It looks like some conservatives can grok the way some liberals feel about Kerry.
“John Kerry Must Go.”
That Village Voice headline may be a tad dramatic, but stories about disaffected Democrats are spreading like wildfire through the media forest.
Never mind that the Massachusetts senator is just about even with an incumbent president six months before the election. The naysayers are seizing the spotlight.
“There’s definitely a Beltway maelstrom,” says Democratic strategist Jenny Backus. “There are a whole bunch of Monday morning quarterbacks who live in Washington and feed a lot of these reporters. People use the press as a giant instant-message board.”
No wonder Slate blogger Mickey Kaus has started a “Dem Panic Watch.” Consider:
“Kerry Struggling to Find a Theme, Democrats Fear,” says the New York Times.
“It’s six months until the election, and Democrats are already having buyer’s remorse,” says John Fund of OpinionJournal.com.
“Democratic leaders fear he’s getting ‘Gored,’ ” says the Associated Press.
“The Trouble Is, So Far Kerry Stinks on TV,” says the New York Observer.
Some Democrats are “pretty freaked out” by Kerry, says the New York Post. They see “a listless and message-less mishmash,” says Newsweek. The man “has something of a gift for the toxic sound bite,” says Time.
If I didn’t write about politics, if I didn’t have so much pressure to pick one or the other, I would probably vote for myself as a write-in candidate. Bush deserves to be voted out of the White House. The trouble is I have no good reason to put Kerry in.
The best I can say for John Kerry is that he isn’t George Bush. The best I can say for George Bush is that he isn’t John Kerry. May they tie in November and cancel each other out.