Friday, May 30, 2008

I think the fat lady is singing

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on May 15th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

As I write this column American voters have just finished going to the polls in North Carolina and Indiana as part of our never-ending Democratic presidential primary to vote for their choice as a successor to President Bush. Today also marks the last day of Bertie Ahern’s 11 years of service to Ireland as Taoiseach. I know the media have grown weary of Bertie and some Irish citizens have become disillusioned because of Bertie’s allegedly questionable personal financial dealings while he served as Finance Minister, but I think history will judge him much more kindly than many of his critics currently do.
In my opinion Bertie Ahern did a fairly good job as Taoiseach over the course of his three terms as Ireland’s political leader and this fact will eventually lead most Irish citizens to look back and recall his successive terms as Taoiseach fondly. I wish I could say the same for one of Bertie’s political contemporaries who will also be stepping down in about eight more months, US President George Bush. In a marked contrast with the US President, Bertie Ahern saw that the media spotlight on the controversy surrounding his personal finances going back some fifteen years was making it very difficult for both him and the Fianna Fáil Party to continue to govern Ireland in an effective manner.
Across the Atlantic, it was five years ago that President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq by telling the American people and the rest of the world “Mission Accomplished.” Well today the President still lives in a dream world of what might have been instead of the real world of what is. Thus while all US Presidents have some difficulty getting their agendas addressed in their last year in office (because public attention shifts to the contest to succeed them), Bush is earning the singular distinction of becoming the most irrelevant and unsuccessful president during his final year in office in US history.
The recent debate about waiving federal gas taxes for the summer months was entirely focused on what Bush’s three would-be successors thought should be done rather than what President Bush thought about this issue. But this is only one small snapshot of how Bush has become totally irrelevant as US President. Among other things, Bush’s plan for housing reform has gone nowhere, his push for a free trade pact with Colombia was dead on arrival, his recent so called climate-warming initiative has been totally ignored and the 71% disapproval rating of how Bush is doing his job is the highest figure for any US President since the question was first asked in the 1930s. Even more amazing to me is the fact that 29% of Americans still approve of the how Bush is doing his job.
In an effort to rationalize his current legislative ineffectiveness, Bush’s political aides continue to characterize him as being intent on pursuing matters of principle. This is their response to those who accuse Bush of being unreasonably stubborn and refusing to face up to the realities of a reeling US economy and a gaping budget deficit that are both due in no small measure to an Iraq war which occupies more US combat troops today than it did when Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq five years ago. Thus President Bush continues to demonstrate that he is much more concerned about how his legacy will be viewed some years from now than he is in proposing viable solutions or bipartisan legislation to address the current problems bedevilling the United States.
President Bush argues that his ineffectual legislative proposals are based on his principles (albeit questionable ones) that are set in stone. The end result is that he further marginalizes himself by ignoring the complaints of Democratic and Republican congressional leaders rather than trying to compromise with them. The magnitude of President Bush’s delusions about himself and his accomplishments as President is both an amazing and very disheartening sight to behold. Is it any wonder then that the American people have turned their focus to who the next President will be? Why should Americans even bother concerning themselves with the views of a man who doesn’t have any grasp of reality?
So based on the results from the Indiana and North Carolina Democratic primaries tonight what conclusions can we draw about who is likely to succeed George W. Bush?
While I may be wrong, based on my experiences in Arkansas politics I believe the Clintons’ purpose in playing up racial and gender divisions is two-fold. Either they will win the Democratic nomination and then the Presidency in November (they’re assuming of course that African-Americans will forgive the Clintons for their racially divisive campaign tactics and will still turn out to vote for them over McCain), or they will so damage Obama in the process of losing the Democratic nomination that Obama will end up losing to McCain in November. This scenario validates their claim that “he can’t win” without them publicly admitting that they’re also privately saying “because he is black”.
A loss by Obama in November would then position the Clintons to run for the Democratic nomination again in 2012 and tell Democrats “Hey we told you Hillary (and Bill) was the stronger candidate so now its time for you to let us prove it.” The Clinton’s greatest fear is that Obama will win in 2008 and then they won’t get another opportunity to run again until 2016, when Hillary will be 69 years old.
But the combination of Obama’s overwhelming triumph in North Carolina and the Clintons’ razor thin win of Indiana will probably be enough to swing most of the remaining Democratic super delegates to Obama’s side of the ledger. Whatever ground Clinton gained in the popular vote coming out of Pennsylvania was washed away tonight by the almost 15 percentage point loss Clinton sustained in North Carolina. I could be wrong, but I do believe I heard the “Fat Lady” singing tonight.

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