While President George W. Bush jets around the country trying to convince skeptical Americans that Iraq is not lost and headed for civil war, he faces a uncivil war at home within his own White House and the Republican Party.
At the White House, staff meetings often deteriorate into shouting matches with one side saying the President should be honest and forthright about the problems in Iraq and the other clinging to the failed notion that Bush should stick to his optimistic outlooks.
On Capitol Hill, angry GOP members of Congress openly admit they will not campaign with Bush and say his “legacy” of unpopular war, massive federal spending and spiraling deficits will be shunned by the party in the next Presidential elections.
House Majority Leader Roy Blunt admits the President’s failure to stick to basic party principles and a lack of credibility are big problems for his party in this year’s mid-term elections.
“Combine that with less popularity and people are much slower to salute the flag,” Blunt says.
Defense lawyers for the upcoming trial of former Vice Presidential chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, say they will focus on the intense infighting within the White House as a key part of their strategy to show Libby was just reacting to the prevailing nature of the Bush administration.
Papers filed with the court last week detail a culture of “finger pointing” within the White House that could add to Bush’s growing list of political embarrassments.
Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Bush’s successor in the Lone Star governor’s mansion, lays the blame on Bush and the Republican Party who followed him away from what Perry calls “basic Republican principles.”
“Republicans just need to take stock, go back and realize that the American people elected them because of their principles, and when you do not adhere to those principles, the American people are just as likely to turn you out and choose someone else,” Perry says.
Polls show registered voters in this country clearly want someone else – in the White House and controlling Congress.
A recent Newsweek poll by Princeton Survey Associates show Bush’s approval ratings at its lowest point – 33 percent – and voters preferring a Democratic takeover of Congress in this fall’s elections.
While politicians publicly dismiss polls when they turn out unfavorable, Republican strategists admit privately that the latest numbers of a cause for concern.
Only three other Presidents in modern times have experienced job approval ratings as low as Bush – Richard Nixon in January 1974, Jimmy Carter in July 1979 and Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush in August 1992.
Nixon resigned in disgrace. Carter and the elder Bush lost re-election bids. While George W. Bush cannot run again, those who endorsed his policies over the last five years must face the remnants of the President’s tattered “legacy” along with an angry electorate looking for payback.