Bush`s Vanishing Coattails


The Bush Administration is facing an unprecedented loss of control over the domestic debate on the Iraq war. Having taken a number of direct hits in recent weeks, the Administration is now fighting back in an effort to rebuild a support base. It may, however, be too late.

The President's problems are not new. They began this summer when Cindy Sheehan, the mother who lost her son in Iraq, began a protest campaign against the war. At first the White House dismissed her challenge, failing to recognize how she was mobilizing press attention and public opposition to the war.

Then, just as the President began to mount a national defense of his handling of the Iraq war, his effort was upended by the Katrina disaster. The Administration's slow response to that crisis only served to further erode public support. Add to that, a series of other min-scandals and indictments of top White House and Republican leaders and the failed nomination of the President's counselor to be a Supreme Court Justice and the stage was set for a troubled Presidency.

All of them, coupled with the ever-increasing death toll in Iraq have resulted in shaky public confidence in Bush's leadership and trust in the honesty of his Presidency.

As Bush's poll numbers continue to drop (his approval rating is now at 34%, with almost 6 in 10 voters believing that he has not been an "honest President") and the debate over the handling of the Iraq war continues to grow, Senators and Congressman, both Republicans and Democrats have started to distance themselves from and challenge the Administration's war policy.

When Democratic Senators like Patrick Leahy (VT), Edward Kennedy and John Kerry (MA), and John Edwards criticized the war, the Administration could ignore them. But last week, the White House war effort received a mild, but still stinging rebuke from the Republicans in the US Senate. Concerned that the public's frustration with the Administration's handling of the war might negatively effect their reelection chances in 2006, the Republican leadership in the Senate decided to act, taking the initiative away from the Democrats, the Republicans passed by a 79-19 margin a bill of their own calling on the Bush White House to provide quarterly progress reports on the war effort and declaring that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition from US to Iraqi control of the war."

As criticism continued to grow, both the President and Vice President struck back in an effort to regain control over the debate. They, and their spokespeople, accused Administration critics of "irresponsibly" letting down US troops, being "dishonest and reprehensible" in "rewriting history", forsaking Iraq to terrorism and compromising the security of Americans.

As stinging as these criticisms might be, it may very well be too late to turn the tide of the national debate. Evidence Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's (NE) rebuttal to the White House. 

"The Bush Administration must understand," Hagel noted, "that each American has the right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. To question your government is NOT unpatriotic-to NOT question your government is unpatriotic."

This was followed by the dramatic criticism put forth by Congressman John Murtha (PA), a leading Democratic hawk and firm supporter of the war, Late last week, Murtha captured headlines and set off a firestorm of debate when he declared the war to be a "flawed policy wrapped in an illusion," and announced that he had come to the conclusion that "it was time to bring the troops home."

This will not happen, but what has happened is that the Administration has lost control of the national debate and the ability to set the parameters of how the war proceeds. Losing the public's confidence is one thing, but when elected officials in Congress, worried about their own positions feel compelled to act, it is clear that the White House is in trouble.

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute and can be reached at [email protected]


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Older Comments:
DR EDRISS FROM US said:
Dr.pessimist, there are more than 99% of good people in America. I'm, with no doubt, one of them. the only problem brother, drugs selling everywhere. what you gonna do when you can make the fortune of someone in Africa in couple hours? you definitly gonna use drugs. plus the majority of that 99% believe jesus paid for that.
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DR EDRISS FROM US said:

brother Najjar,
may Allah bless you. why you wake us brother? :)leave us dream? all started in America as dreams :).
there is something shaking but we still can't know to which level. it's politics and once you can't make money with your policy, someone else gonna take over. THIS IS AMERICA BABY :)
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DR.PESSIMIST FROM U.S.A. said:
I am sick and tired of hearing about the eroding support for terrorist G.W.Bush. The fact is with the exception of 10% of decent people and intellectuals,Americans are either brain-damaged retards or racist thugs who careless if all the children of the world die as long as their econoic interests and standard of living are preserved.
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NAJJAR FROM MOROCCO said:
Please no more "oh the American public is realizing that they were lied too". Are we being told that they have no brain, or that they have less access to information than the poorest (materially and intellectually) population in the world has? The world is not buying these poor and pathetic excuses. We know by fact that 98 percent of the American are a strong anti-intellectual kind of people, but not to this point.
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NAJJAR FROM MOROCCO said:
It is still the United States government. Those politicians can display all kind of debates and disagreements. They can send the whole packaged insipid show to the world. It is still the American public who elected and re-elected each one of these republicans and democrats who, let us not ever forget gave full power to these criminals to go around the planet and decide which world population will die and which one will live. Writers and intellectuals (including some Muslims writers) can "inform" the world population on "shows" played in the political studios. The facts still remain the same; the Americans and the Zionists are still perpetrating CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, again thanks to the American PUBLIC, they will have to be stopped.

They keep sending their clowns to roam the Muslims world and asking, "please love us, we know, we know, we do admit we are making mistakes, we know we are killing and torturing your children and devastating your homes, but please do understand, you should not prevent us from taking "our" natural resources that just happen to be under your feet, that's extremely vital for our economy, so you know, our survival depends on everything there, and by the way sorry about your crushed babies heads and your burned parents." And least we don't do that to our own people like Saddam has done to his. And do us and yourselves a favor, do no believe what others say; that we preach like virgins at home and act like a filthy prostitutes abroad, you know as well as us that whoever say this unfair statement is just plain jealous of our freedom and our successful fast food chains.

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