A growing number of Republican leaders, party strategists and political professional now privately tell President George W. Bush that his presidency “is effectively over” unless he fires embattled White House advisor Karl Rove, apologizes to the American people for misleading the country into war and revamps his administration from top to bottom.
“The only show of unity we have now in the Republican Party is the belief that the President has failed the party, the American people and the presidency,” says a longtime, and angry, GOP strategist.
With the public face of support for Bush eroding daily from even diehard Republicans, the President faces mounting anger from within his party over the path that may well lead to loss of control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections and the White House in 2008.
“This presidency is in trouble,” says a senior White House aide. “Even worse, I don’t know if there is a way out of the trouble.”
Congressional leaders journeyed to the White House before Bush left on his South American tour this week to tell the President that his legislative agenda on the Hill is dead, his latest Supreme Court nominee faces a tough confirmation fight in the Senate and he is facing open revolt within party ranks.
“The Speaker is having an increasingly difficult time holding his troops in line,” says a source within the office of House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert. “Anger at the President grows exponentially with each passing day.”
At a recent White House strategy session, internal party pollsters told the President that his approval rating with Americans continues to slide and may be irreversible, citing his failed Iraq war, the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers and his failure to deal decisively on a number of fronts, including Hurricane Katrina, the economy and the Valerie Plame scandal.
In meetings, leaders and strategists have suggested a number of things that Bush must do to try and save his presidency and GOP prospects in upcoming elections, including:
- Apologize to the American people, Congress and our allies for misleading them on the reasons for invading Iraq;
- Revamp the White House staff from top to bottom;
- Fire Rove.
“We keep coming back to Rove,” says a GOP pollster. “He has escaped indictment, so far, but the feeling within the party is that another shoe is ready to drop and the longer he waits to jettison Rove the greater the damage. As long as Karl Rove remains at the President’s side, the Bush presidency is effectively over and he is just riding out the days until the nation elects a Democrat to replace him. Even with Rove gone the damage may be irreparable.”
Bush, however, has dug his heels in on Rove. When a GOP strategist suggested last weekend that the President fire Rove, Bush exploded.
“You go to hell,” he screamed at the strategist. “You can leave and you can take the rest of these lily-livered motherfuckers with you!” The President then stormed out of the room and refused to meet further with any other party leaders or strategists.
Bush’s escalating temper tantrums and his intransigence on political issues increase Republican worries about the long term effects on both his presidency and the party’s prospects in upcoming elections.
“Right now, George W. Bush is the Republican Party’s chief liability,” says a GOP strategist who has advised Presidential campaigns for 30 years. “The entire political future of the party and perhaps the nation now rests on the shoulders of a President that no one – Democrat or Republican – believes in or trusts.”