Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Will The GOP Lose?

Glenn Reynolds counts the likely reasons why it will happen.

To which I will add, going back to my New Republic
piece of two years ago, "accountability":

Ultimately, on both foreign and domestic policy, the public's trust has been betrayed. Why should the public trust its leaders with future policy if those leaders deceive and manipulate the people's elected representatives to get a favored policy passed? If the American public and the world at large now react skeptically to future presidential claims that the United States faces a foreign threat, who can blame them?

Similarly, the president's intent to reform Social Security will now be judged by the still-emerging costs of the Medicare reform--to say nothing of the political backlash from some seniors incensed at having to pay 17 percent more in premiums. The mishandling of domestic spending, of which Medicare is the prime example--whether because of ignorance, incompetence, or deceit--casts the same pall over Bush's domestic agenda that the collapse of Iraq does over his foreign policy.

The president who dismisses criticism of the cost of Medicare is the same one who "miscalculated" the costs for rebuilding Iraq by at least $100 billion--and submitted a subsequent budget that omitted even an estimate of spending for the current military campaigns. Medicare actuary Richard Foster was threatened with firing if he told the truth about the costs of the reform bill, while his boss who pushed forward the lower numbers, Thomas Scully, departed quietly to a cushy health care-related policy job at a Washington, D.C., law firm. That was, of course, the same pattern we witnessed with the management of the Iraq war. Individuals who got the prewar details right--either in terms of troop strength (General Eric Shinseki) or in estimated fiscal costs (former National Economic Council Director Lawrence Lindsey)--were publicly rebuked or dismissed. Those who got the prewar details wrong remain in positions of authority. Conservatives--who fear unchecked, unaccountable government--should be especially appalled.

It would be wonderful to believe the president's promise that the war in Iraq will lead to democracy in a troubled region. An immigrant--I was born in the West Indies--tends to absorb the earnest, spiritual myths of his adopted nation even more than those native-born. Democracy is indeed a human value. But initiating a war to "liberate" an entire region far from our shores can hardly be called a conservative cause. It will be impossible to restrain a government kept on a permanent war footing. And, in liberty's name abroad, liberty at home will inevitably be compromised. It already has been.

...At crucial points before and after the Iraq war, Bush's middle managers have failed him, and the "brand" called America has suffered in the world market. In any other corporate structure plagued by this level of incompetence, the CEO would have a choice: Fire his middle managers or be held personally accountable by his shareholders. Because of his own misguided sense of "loyalty," Bush won't dismiss anyone. That leaves the country's shareholders little choice.

That was almost exactly two years ago. Before Katrina. Before Harriet Miers. Before Iraq got...even more complicated.

Bringing everything up to date, the president still has refused to hold accountable those who have screwed up royally on his watch -- particularly on the policy that defines his term: Rumsfeld remains. (Giving George Tenet a Presidential Medal of Freedom, of course, was a nice added touch.) But, Congress has refused to hold the president accountable. By giving in to the executive branch constantly and refusing to exercise their constitutionally mandated oversight role, Congressional Republicans have become little more than enablers. Voters may decide that oversight is a good thing -- even if it is of the partisan variety.

Bridge To Nowhere -- and, no, I'm not referring to the Talking Heads song of a similar title. As Andrew Sullivan points out -- it's the spending, stupid. And not just basic foolish policy decisions such as the Medicare prescription-drug bill. The bridge is the perfect emblem of the Republican majority as it represents a clandestine priveleged bit of legislation, arrogance born of seniority (Don Young in the House and Ted Stevens in the Senate, two of the longest-serving members in their respective chambers) and entitlement.

Last weekend though, the New York Times
stumbled onto another reason why things looks so dire for the GOP.

In recent Harris Interactive polls, the number of respondents who refuse to
acknowledge a preference for either party has risen to about 25 percent of the
electorate from about 12 percent for most of the last decade.
Much of this increase in independents, he said, is probably accounted for by former
Republican voters not quite willing to say they lean Democratic, but also
unlikely to turn out this year.
“It is a red flag that Republican politicians need to watch,” Mr. Wirthlin said. Although Republicans have long outperformed Democrats at turning out their voters, he added, “this year they may be raking water up a hill.”
This polling data jives quite well with apocraphal evidence: Republican RT readers have declared in the Comments section their intent to vote against a certain incumbent House Republican for no other reason than to send a signal to the party over rampant spending. Disillusioned ones mention not voting at all.

This may why the party ID in various polls seems much more
weighted toward Democrats than in previous years. The folks at NRO are suspicious of the methodology. They wonder if the pollsters are including an inherent bias -- just to depress GOP voters, while the Democrats are fired up and maxing out on their campaign dollars.

But there is another explanation: It may indeed be true -- Democrats are picking up more support: There are more people willing to describe themselves as "Democrats."

UPDATE: Okay, this is officially looking really ugly now:
Just 20 days until Election Day, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds approval of the GOP-held Congress is at its lowest mark in 14 years, the Republican Party's favorability rating is at an all-time low and President George W. Bush's approval rating remains mired in the 30s -- all ominous signs for a party trying to maintain control of Congress.
In fact, according to the poll, Republicans are in worse shape on some key measures than
Democrats were in 1994, when they lost their congressional majorities.
"There is not a single number in here that would suggest the Democrats will not have their best showing in a decade -- and maybe two decades," says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican Bill McInturff.

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