The country is turning against Bush and the political fallout is beginning to spread. An Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults found approval of Bush's handling of Iraq, which had been hovering in the low- to mid-40s most of the year, dipped to 38 percent in early August. More than 55 percent said they disapproved of his overall performance as president.
Rich's strength is in distilling the American cultural landscape into a written certainty:
Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America . . . What lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam . . .The sputtering of the right's message machine is itself a testament to Rich's dead aim. The right blogosphere can only point fingers, wave the flag and blame the messenger. Their A-list of on-air bloviators can turn up their spittle and volume but none can challenge Rich on the facts. At last, history is catching up with histrionics.
They know as well as any political observer that the president's second term is on life support. No combination of spin from O'Reilly, Coulter, Hannity or Limbaugh can put Bush II back together again. Americans are already looking elsewhere for leaders who can re-assess our fight against terrorism and restore faith in our intentions. This message of popular discontent with Bush is piercing the mainstream media "filter" and seeping through the cracks in the right establishment.
With mid-term elections looming, the president could become a liability for Republicans seeking office in '06.
I had been thinking about the predicament LBJ faced in 1968 -- the escalation of an un-winnable war in Vietnam -- which forced him not to seek nor accept the nomination for re-election. LBJ understood what GWB cannot -- that there comes a time when a leader has to put the best interests of the country before politics, remove himself from the political process and own up to his own failures.
Bush, however, is entirely a political creation. You separate the politics from his DNA and he evaporates like a Texas mirage. There's no man behind the façade -- no human capacity to make a decision that isn't calculated to benefit those few who propped him up as a leader. Admitting his mistakes, would be political suicide. If you kill the politician, you're left with a hollow shell.
Bush has no option but to ride his ship of state to the bottom. But how many more of us -- Americans, Iraqis and others -- is he going to sacrifice before his dismal turn at the wheel is up?
Rich's indictment is helping right what's been wrong with the White House for too long. His column is going viral (according to technorati and the Times' own email counter) adding weight to the evidence -- real, anecdotal and editorial -- that's tipping history's ballast against a politician who isn't man enough to face the facts.