Saturday, November 12, 2005
Pehaps he hadn't waited, 60% of the people wouldn't think he was a liar. Maybe he would have an approval rating a bit above 37%. Maybe his legislative proposals - ANWR, making permanent his tax cuts, Social Security reform - would have a chance of passing. Maybe he would have popular and Congressional support for taking action against the other countries - North Korea, Iran, Syria - that are causing problems.
I'd go so far as to say that if he had done this at the outset, then Libby wouldn't be facing charges right now. Had Bush taken to the podium and directly rebuked the likes of Wilson, then Libby and Rove and whomever else was involved wouldn't have had to work the back channels to discredit Wilson.
I have no idea what took Bush so long. It's not as if his critics just started with pushing their revisionist history. It's not as if his popularity and the public's views on his trustworthiness hasn't been declining for quite a while. It's not as if his (once, but no longer) supporters haven't been calling on him to strike back. Can anyone give me one reason why this wasn't done last year? Or earlier this year?
The only reason I can come up with is that he viewed the 2004 election results as a validation of him and his policies and not, as they truly were, a repudiation of John Kerry and liberal policies. Why he would think this in the face of his declining poll numbers I can't explain... but what other explanation is there?
And I think this week's elections had much to do with his finally picking himself off the canvas. Maybe these elections were the straw that broke the camel's back of resistance to finally striking back.
Unfortunately, as much as some of his supporters might like to view Bush's response as 'better late than never', I am afraid it is probably 'too little, too late'. Minds have been made up and they are not easily changed. The Democrats have had months and months and months to chip away at the public's perception of Bush as being a stand up guy. A little forged documents here, a little Wilson there, some CIA leaks here, some Sheehan there, some overblowing of bad news there... and their masterpiece is just about complete.... and without the 'benefit' of any really bad news.... because, to put it mildly, there aren't enough days left in Bush's term for him to reverse the damage that's been done to his credibility.
And that's a shame. It didn't have to be this way. It's not as if he hasn't had numerous opportunities to lash out at his critics. Maybe he just is as clueless as his opponents claim he is... and not as smart as his supporters would have liked.
UPDATE: Contrast the terrible job Bush has done managing the attacks on him with the masterful work that Clinton did in the Lewinsky affair. Not a single attack went without counterattack. They demonized Starr to the point where people thought worse of Starr than they did Clinton. Even today, Clinton keeps on the attack. The end result: even though the GOP had the votes to kick Clinton out of office, they blinked. Can anyone imagine, given Bush's terrible poll numbers, that if the Democrats controlled Congress, Bush wouldn't be facing impeachment? And that the Democrats would have the guts to see it through?