Daniel Henninger, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has a four step program for President Bush, which I think is a good one.
The autumn of the Bush presidency has turned gray. Mr. Bush’s approval rating is below 40 but factoring in the political wind chill it feels like 25.
First Katrina, a lady with no known politics, blew the Bush second-term agenda off its moorings. Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s Tonto, is about a quarter mile ahead of a post-indictment lynch mob. And this week, the president’s personal nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court was denounced on these pages by Robert Bork–which is like a conservative president’s Supreme Court nominee being dissed by, well, Robert Bork. As my former colleague Suzi Garment was wont to say amid similar Washington meltdowns, “This is not good!”
All the President’s known heroes–Churchill, Lincoln, Reagan–at some point arrived at low ebb. Mr. Bush, however, does not have access to Churchill’s eloquence, Lincoln’s stature or Reagan’s personality. But he surely knows from his study of these men that nothing so becomes a beleaguered national leader than the ability to act.
“Act” is not a synonym for hunker down. Act means do something only a president can do. It means rising above the squabble, rather than contributing to it, as his desperate White House team is doing now. Most of all, Mr. Bush needs to reforge the broken links to the two sources of his power–his people and his party.
Herewith, a four-step plan to ensure there will be no talk of ducks for the next 27 months outside the Crawford ranch.
• Withdraw Harriet, nominate Edith. Harriet Miers is the canary in the Bush mineshaft. Her nomination sent fissures through the walls of a Republican coalition already cracking under the weight of federal outlays for a prescription drug entitlement and highways to nowhere. The disappointment of conservative intellectuals over attorney Miers is said to have been predicted inside the White House, and discounted. A mistake. Many of the best people in conservative politics have walked away from the Bush presidency.
The President needs his party to sustain him through the end of the term, and most of all this means completing the mission in Iraq. A Supreme Court nomination, however important, is a political obligation. Iraq is a moral obligation. The Miers nomination, by undermining the President’s standing in his own party–and it has–is threatening Mr. Bush’s ability to finish the job in Iraq. The imperatives of presidential leadership trump personal loyalty, especially in time of war, and we are at war.
Mr. Bush should withdraw the Miers nomination and replace her with Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit. Like Harriet she is from Texas; I doubt Mr. Bush is complaining that the Astros are in the World Series. You want political formation? Judge Jones spent her formative years as an undergraduate witnessing the extrajudicial politics of the left at Cornell circa 1968-71. That is to say, she has already experienced the Judiciary Committee Democrats.
Replacing Harriet with Edith would electrify and unify a broken party. That done, Mr. Bush should:
• Go to Baghdad. The Bush Doctrine, presented by Mr. Bush in September 2002, correctly defined the most pressing need of the post-Reagan era as the democratization of nations capable of acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is the only test of the Bush Doctrine. If Iraq fails, the doctrine falls; that is the logic-chain of Mr. Bush’s opponents from the Quai d’Orsay to Langley Park.
There are two crucial missions that only Bush boots on the ground in Iraq can accomplish: Rally America’s GIs and rally the Iraqi people–those who have sacrificed most to make the Bush Doctrine succeed.
The American men and women serving in Iraq don’t live in the bubble of wars past. They see the same news we see; the last thing they need in the morning is the sense they are being led by a presidency of uncertain public standing. After 22 months served, these troops deserve a major visit from their commander in chief.
The Iraqi people–Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds–have just voted to approve a constitution. The making of a government lies ahead. In his address to the parliament of Iraq, recalling the historic 1988 Reagan speech at Moscow State University, Mr. Bush could describe the making of our own Constitution, its political tensions, its personal and factional animosities, the military uncertainty of the American project described in David McCollough’s “1776” and in time, its success. He could describe the common terrorism that visited his own country in September 2001 and daily visits the neighborhoods of Iraq.
By going to Iraq, Mr. Bush would revive the people who rallied to his cause–and who stayed with him–after his speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001. He would give heart and hope to incipient democrats in Iraq and across the Middle East. This can’t happen from behind a desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Read about the other two.
4 thoughts on “Henninger: How Bush can get his mojo back”
Gary,>>I read this piece in the WSJ. I also wanted to post David Brook’s column from the NY Times (I read both papers daily) for you to read. He’s my favorite conservative columnist. But I’m having issues getting it from the Times web site.>>Considering your post some time back on Ms. Meirs, I take it you’ve decided NOT to trust President Bush on this nomination. He’s a stubborn guy, and likely will not back down.>>This is actually some pretty good advice. Going to Iraq would be a spectacular media event, and could very well boost his standing.>>I think he succeeded with his choice for the Fed chair. The sequester issue is also good conservative politics. But can he pull it off?>>I don’t have to agree with the man or his policies to grasp good strategy when I read it. During his first term, he kicked Dem’s butts with sound political strategy and keeping focused to his message. He’s slipped considerably in term two. >>But ya know what? Every president since I don’t know when has stumbled badly in his second term. Nixon. Reagan. Clinton. Now Bush. When you don’t have another election to win, you grow complacent. Lose focus. It’s why I think Republicans made a huge mistake in the 50s when they passed whatever amendment it was limiting the president to two terms. Term limits of any kind take away my right to choose whomever I want for office, and turn things over to the bureaucrats. And lobbyists. The situation in CA is a perfect example.>>If I can get the Brooks column, I’ll post it here for you.
Howard,>>If you can get me an approximate date for the NYT Brooks column, I can find it.>>Well, this is a great day, Howard. You posted a comment that I am in complete agreement with. >>By the way, it isn’t that I don’t trust President Bush on the Miers nomination. It is that with all of the information that has come out since from people whose opinion I respect, I now have my doubts about supporting the Miers nomination, but I would not work actively in opposition of it. I think the author of this article makes some good points about the nomination, however.>>Regards,>>Gary
Gary,>>Your post made me laugh. Glad to accommodate you. Just don’t count on it very often.>>I think the Brooks column I’m thinking of was last Sunday’s. The basic premise was the future of conservatism post-Bush.>>I’m not too enthusiastic about Ms. Miers either, but probably for different reasons than you. Essentially, I think she just pales next to Chief Justice Roberts. That was a brilliant nomination.>>I have a fun consersation going with a guy named Jerry in your live sex-act ACLU post. You should join us.
Gary,>>Oops. I meant the “No, this is not a joke” post. Not the ACLU one. Although you haven’t replied to my last post there my friend.>>Howard
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