By Jeff Crouere
The approval rating
of President George W. Bush is now at the lowest point of his presidency.
Bush has an anemic 42% approval rating right now, much lower than Richard
Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton at this point in their presidency.
In fact, Bush’s approval rating at this juncture in his term is similar
to Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, who all lost
Bush is suffering because of the problems in Iraq.
Over the past few months, casualties have increased dramatically.
In addition, there have been mounting questions about the operation in
Iraq with concerns about the transfer of power to Iraq authorities on June 30,
2004. With the prisoner abuse
scandal making even more people question the conduct of the Bush administration,
good news on the economic front has been overshadowed.
In fact, in the last two months, economic growth and employment numbers
have skyrocketed bolstering claims from the President that his tax cuts would
have a beneficial impact on the economy. Unfortunately for Bush, voters are not
focusing on the good economic news right now.
If voters are concentrating on an economic issue it is the rapidly rising
gasoline prices. Now, Americans are facing historically high prices of over
$2.00 per gallon for gasoline. These high gas prices are another problem for
President Bush, especially with millions of Americans vacationing this summer
and facing increasing costs for travel.
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In light of the troubling developments in Iraq and at the
pump, and with the crumbling poll numbers, the political advisers for President
Bush have to be concerned. His
re-election is now very suspect and the respected pollster John Zogby has stated
that the “election is John Kerry’s to lose.” To make matters worse, Bush
is even having trouble holding his Republican base. In a recent Zogby poll,
almost 20% of Republicans are not solidly behind the President’s re-election.
Bush is having plenty of difficulty garnering Independent and Democratic voters
so motivating the GOP base is crucial for the President to win in November. Who
are these Republicans questioning a Bush second term?
Despite all of the Republican concerns, the most pressing
involves federal spending, which has grown much more in this administration than
in the rather liberal Clinton administration. Whereas there were surpluses in the Clinton administration,
there are now increasing budget deficits in the Bush administration. Of course,
the 9-11 attacks led to the creation of the Homeland Security Department and
increased defense spending. Also, the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are
costing billons of dollars with no end in sight. However, some conservatives
question whether a massive new federal bureaucracy is the best way to fight
terrorism. According to Heritage Foundation researcher Dr. Daniel Mitchell,
“…government inevitably wastes money and deprives the private sector of
resources that could be used to boost jobs and create growth. This is why
discretionary spending should be reduced.” Yet, billions of dollars have been
pumped into the war on terror and new agencies like the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) have been created.
Has this new bureaucracy made us safer? According to
Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin, the TSA is
too bureaucratic and airport security remains much too lax. Our airport security
problems are so bad that House Aviation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL)
recently stated, “We have a system that doesn’t work.”
After federalizing all airport screeners and spending billions of
dollars, and with terrorist threats everywhere, such a situation is
unacceptable. Federal spending is not just increasing in the areas of defense
and the war on terror; unfortunately, all federal spending has been increasing
rapidly. This year, the budget deficit is expected to rise over $500 billion. In
fact, Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation analyzed Bush administration
spending and found that United States government spending has now topped $20,000
per household, a post World War II record.
Some reasons why spending has accelerated so rapidly can be found in Bush
administration priorities like the “No Child Left Behind” act which
dramatically boosted spending in the Department of Education, which Republicans
like Ronald Reagan used to advocate eliminating. Also, President Bush signed a
$180 billion farm bill, which included wasteful spending, corporate welfare,
unnecessary subsidies and plenty of just plain pork.
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So, spending and immigration contribute to GOP problems for
President Bush as he prepares for the re-election battle ahead. To win, he will
obviously need a solid GOP base, yet 20% of Republicans are not on board with
his re-election campaign. At this point, the chances of Bush winning re-election
are at best 50/50. He needs to work extremely hard over the next few months to
not only reach out to Independents and Democrats, but to figure out how to
secure the support of his party. His
best hope to unify the party is to paint John Kerry as a completely unattractive
candidate so that no matter what problems Republicans have with Bush; very few
will find John Kerry an acceptable alternative. An anti-Kerry strategy is a time
tested political maneuver, which seems to be the one the Bush campaign will try
to use to bring Republicans on board and squeak out a victory in November.
We’ll know in a few months if it succeeds.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New
Orleans, LA and his Louisiana based program, Ringside Politics, airs from noon
to 2 p.m. weekdays on WTIX 690 AM radio and at 8:30 p.m. Friday and 10:30 p.m.
Sunday on WLAE-TV Channel 32. His Web site is at www.ringsidepolitics.com.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.