As Exiled in NJ noted in a comment here the other day, President Bush's recent upswing in the polls is due mainly to Republicans who've apparently gotten over Hurricane Katrina and Mike "Heckuva Job" Brownie and decided that as long as Bush isn't currently letting another major American city drown he's doing ok by them.
Be interesting to see how much of a fall off the President's declaration that he is king and the king gets to spy on any of his subjects whenever he gets a whim to do so causes and how long it takes dismayed and disgusted Republicans to forgive and forget this one---although I suspect that Republicans who are dismayed and disgusted by this are more likely to be thoughtful people of real principle who will find it hard to think of Bush as anything but what he's shown himself to be, a petty tyrannt who feels unrestrained by law, tradition, principle, common decency, or even a healty fear of getting caught.
As for the first type of Republicans, well, I'm more concerned about and more concerned by the many Democrats and Independents who still think Bush is doing ok by them.
For Pete's sake, how much more damage does the man have to do?
Now, as Ezra points out, there are many millions of Americans who just want to like their President, no matter who he is or what party he belongs to. They are not Red State Americans or Blue State Americans. They are Red, White, and True Blue Americans and they believe in supporting the man in the White House come hell or high water because he represents the United States to the world. These people liked Clinton, and now they like Bush; they will like whoever comes next; and whenever they are asked by a pollster they will answer that they "approve" of the job the President is doing, partly because they believe it is their duty to approve, the way it is their duty to fly the flag on National Holidays and stand for the Star Spangled Banner and teach their kids to love their country, and partly because their own patriotism, innate decency, and what they remember of American history convinces them that whoever holds the office must be a decent man trying his hardest to do a difficult job in a way that best serves the entire nation.
They know in their heads that not every President is an Abe Lincoln or a George Washington, but in their hearts they believe that every President is doing his best to live up to the examples set by Abe Lincoln and George Washington.
So they may think things aren't going well for the President, they may even decide he's not doing a good enough job for them to vote for him next time out or for them to be sad when he leaves office when his term's up, but they still "approve" of the job he's doing.
Bush is the worst President ever, but it's a cumulative effect, and if you were to judge the last 5 years only by the two big things Americans care most about, how the economy is doing and whether or not we are at peace, then Bush doesn't look as bad as he is. (Another good point to stop and go see Ezra.) The economy is not great, but it's not as dismal as it turned under his father or even as bad as it got a couple of times during Reagan's tenure. And, although we are obviously not at peace, we aren't at war in a way most people have to notice.
In fact, a lot of people think we are at peace because we are at war.
They believe in the flypaper theory, they believe that getting rid of Saddam has helped make us safer, they believe that waging the war and staying the course has made would-be enemies think twice about taking us on, and they believe that we are busy knocking off terrorists by the score in Afghanistan and Iraq and pretty soon there'll be none left to knock off.
An awful lot of people do not think it's just a coincidence that in the four plus years since 9/11 we haven't suffered another major terrorist attack, and they thank their lucky stars for whatever it is George Bush has been doing, even if it hasn't been much, to protect us so well.
The rest of us can think they're foolish or naive or sadly, sadly misinformed, but every night when they turn on the TV and there's no video of a giant hole in the ground where some big American building used to be and every week when they cash their paycheck they aren't all that bothered that George Bush is President.
But to get back to those 80 per cent plus Republicans...
Not all of them, not the ones who belong to the group I described above, Americans who support Bush because he is the President and they always support whoever is President.
The rest of them, the more loyal Republicans.
I get the urge, too, to take them by their collective shirt fronts and shake them until their back teeth rattle, while demanding to know, "How much more damage does the guy have to do before you admit he's a total fuck-up?"
"What do you mean 'damage,' Lance, and please take your hands off me, you're wrinkling the material."
"What damage? The guy's lost his private little war, for crying out loud!"
"He hasn't lost it. We're winning. See your own flypaper theory above. Plus, as long as we're killing more little brown people than little brown people are killing of us, we're ahead. Plus, we're bringing democracy to the Middle East, which you'd know, if you could see into the future like we can where our dreams really do come true. We're optimists. We choose to believe in our dreams, unlike you cynical pessimists and defeatists who insist on counting flag-draped coffins and dead Iraqi babies, as if a few flag-draped coffins and dead Iraqi babies matter in the long run."
"He let New Orleans drown! He's letting it rot in its own waste!"
"Good riddence. Those people shouldn't have lived there anyway. And how come none of you Liberals ever worry about the people of Mississippi? NOLA, NOLA, NOLA! That's all you care about."
"Mississippi's a mess too! The Gulf Coast was devastated and Bush isn't doing anything to help them rebuild either!"
"They're mostly black and poor down there too, aren't they? Well, I'm sorry for them, and I'm not a racist, but they need to learn how to stand on their own two feet and break free from the cycle of dependency you racist Liberals have addicted them to with your big government programs, plus we just can't keep throwing good money after bad. We can't afford it"
"We can't afford it because Bush is bankrupting the treasury!"
"Yes, he is. Giggle giggle. Beautiful, isn't it?"
And now we get to it.
Whatever else George Bush has been, he's been a very successful Republican President.
Exhibit A. Yesterday's Senate vote on the budget.
Good Republicans support George Bush because he is the figurative head of their Party. If he fails, the Party fails, a fact a lot of worried Republican Congressmen are beginning to take note of. They know next fall's election will likely be a referendum on George W. Bush and they can't decide what their best course is for getting themselves re-elected, push the guy as far away from their districts as they can or fold their arms around him in a great big John McCain-esque hug. I suspect that unless Bush's poll numbers drop drastically among Republicans, for the most part the nervous Congressmen will stand by their man.
During the Impeachment Crisis, I of course, like every sensible person, thought that the charges against Clinton were ridiculous and that the Republicans were simply trying to pretend they weren't attempting a coup. But it wasn't just that I didn't think he deserved Impeachment or even censure. I didn't want him to be Impeached or be forced to resign because it would have been a defeat for the entire Democratic Party. (Paging Joe Lieberman, paging Joe Liberman. Your tailor called. He says he's turned your coat for you and it came out beautifully.) There were some pundits who said Bill should resign for the good of the Party. They said that that way Al Gore could run as the incumbent in 2000. But he would have run as the man who took over for the disgraced and defeated Bill Clinton. (As you know I think he ran as if he saw himself that way, anyway.) It's arguable that the Impeachment Crisis did do half the job the Republicans wanted it to do, wounding Gore and the rest of the Democrats at the polls, but I think what resulted is as nothing compared to what would have happened had they succeeded in driving Bill from the White House.
That's the loyal Democrat in me talking.
It would have taken a whole lot of really high crimes and misdemeanors to have convinced me Bill needed to go.
Loyal Republicans don't want to see their President defeated because they know it will translate into a defeat for them across the board. They won't admit, at least not in public, but maybe not even to themselves, that Bush is a failure, because it would feel like an admission that the Republican Party has failed.
Party loyalty should not trump loyalty to one's country. But Party loyalty is often mostly a matter of being loyal to one's own ego and interests, and vanity and self-interest usually trump every sort of principle in most every sort of human being, Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative.
People stink and they are stupid.
But besides that, as I said, George Bush has been a successful Republican President.
Nevermind the influence of the Religious Right, nevermind the neo-con warmongers and imperialists. You don't even have to consider the many disguised Dixiecrats.
The Republican Party is still, first and foremost, the party of Corporate America. That is, it is the party of rich white folk and the people who dream of nothing else but becoming rich white folk.
Since the Gilded Age, the Republican Party has stood for two things above all else. That the Government's job is to protect, serve, and help increase the wealth, status, and privileges of rich white folk and that, therefore, the Government should do nothing that gets in the way of rich white folk increaing their wealth, status, and privileges.
In short, low taxes, a minimum of regulation, and a big strong police force to keep the riff raff in line and out of their neighborhoods.
(Remember that third item when you think about the cheerleading for domestic spying by the blogging orcs.)
Spin this any way you like, my Republican friends. Rephrase it in as many high-minded words as you can muster, talk about rising tides lifting all boats and free enterprise and self-reliance, what have you. It still comes down to just three things.
Low taxes, a minimum of regulation, and a big strong police force.
And on those three things George Bush has delivered.
The country's engaged in an expensive war with no end in sight?
The treasury's empty?
New Orleans is dying and large chunks of Mississippi are just gone?
What do you do?
Cut spending on the poor, the sick, and the young struggling to get through college.
George W. Bush, Republican. Related:
See Paul the Spud
on yesterday's Senate vote
on the budget and Shakespeare's Sister
on Nancy Pelosi's plans
to get the House's vote reversed.