Wednesday, July 04, 2007

uniter in chief

I recently was told that President Bush has been trying to unite the different factions in the country, and not just in hating him. He also has worked with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on the recently failed immigration reform initiative.

Doubtless I'll be stomped to death for this if I'm incorrect, but I believe this is the first major initiative of the president's where he has reached across the aisle and worked with members of the other party. Six-and-a-half years into your presidency is a little late to start uniting.

Given the tone of his primary campaign in 2000, given the scorched-earth tone of the presidential election of 2004, and given his go-it-alone attitude on everything from backing out of the Kyoto Accords to deposing a foreign government against the express wishes of the international community and the United Nations (and given his oft-demonstrated willingness to shut out advisers who disagree with him or who offer advice he doesn't want to hear) ... you can count me among those who say he's not a uniter. I'll go a step further and say he's a lousy president too, all things considered.

I'll give the president credit, and say that (by and large) he is trying to do what he thinks is right. The problem is that too often, he's come at things with a with-me-or-against-me attitude, has not put forth a convincing case for his beliefs or attitudes, and still has expected people to see the perceived innate rightness of his actions. You can't govern like that, at least not in a democratically elected government like ours, where you need to build consensus, and persuade both allies and opponents, and yet that is how he consistently has tried to govern.

His presidency did get off to a good start, I suppose, with solid support for initiatives like No Child Left Behind and some of the other changes he made. Whatever capital he started out with, and it apparently included enough that some Democrats crossed the aisle to work with on those aforementioned efforts early in his first term, he's had one series of one high-profile mistep after another, not just with the war but domestically as well: the Miers appointment, the Gonzales appointment, and the recent immigration fiasco.

Of course, this is nothing new. If you look at Bush's record prior to the presidency, you'll see a man who consistently just squeaked by. Take someone like that and give him the most powerful office in the world, and he'll still just barely squeak by. The difference is that it's a much more spectacular squeak.

Bush had more clout on Capitol Hill early in his presidency and could get more accomplished because the GOP controlled both houses of Congress, and things were running in a more or less parliamentarian manner; i.e., the Legislative Branch backed many of the initiatives of the Executive Branch rather than Checks-and-Balance'ing them.

With the unpopularity of this war growing out of control and the lack of strategy beyond the "Depose Saddam" stage becoming clearer day by day, his rank-and-file support has been disappearing like rats from a sinking ship.

I'm hoping our next president is someone who really is going to unite us, someone who's going to be able to wave a banner and get the nation to rally together -- someone who won't fabricate a common bogeyman, someone who won't play to the lowest common denominator, and someone who takes a stand for something positive instead of standing against other things.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You touched on a number of good points, but you're quite mistaken on one of the fundamentals.

Bush is a uniter. His recent approval ratings have been in the low 20s. No other President in our nation's history has been that successful at uniting the country in opposition.