Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How Bush Still Matters, Apparently

I know I've puzzled over some of his political manuevers, particularly when it came to taking on some of his own party (particularly with immigration), and some of the apparently unnecessary posturing Bush has done since the 2006 elections, like agreeing to have two biographies written about him (one by buttboy Bill "Big Stretch" Sammon, the other by Robert Draper.

This article gives us a clue to what little effectiveness Bush has in politics today:
"Bush will have a large role, after there's a nominee, to help unite the party," said Republican strategist Scott Reed. "And he will still be a strong fund-raising draw with segments of the party. His real strength will be in helping turn out the hard-core base of the party."
The so-called "29%ers" who still think of Bush as a godsend, literally.

Could less than one-third of the party, plus whatever celebrgasmic minions who just want to rub elbows with the (in)famous, really bring in millions of dollars?

And yet...
"Let's face it, you've basically got a president who is radioactive," said Norman Ornstein, a political expert at the American Enterprise Institute. "I'm sure he'll be active, as he said, on the campaign trail. But frankly he's not going to be very visible on it."

If this election has any resemblance to the past, Bush's role will be limited, because the Republican candidate in the November 2008 election will need to escape the shadow of the president.
Which brings me to another former President.

You may recall that, in the 2000 election, Al Gore treated Bill Clinton like a radioactive device, begging him not to campaign with him, in an attempt to step out of Clinton's shadow...and also, it must be admitted, to divorce himself from the dummied up scandals the Republicans had saddled Clinton's second term with.

Clinton's approval ratings at that time were 63% and better. Bush? 29% now, and slipping further still. We can't expect Bush, who's sole salvation from having the worst approval ratings on record is probably the fact that many of the more thick-headed of our brethren still give him credit for handling terrorism, to recover to even the 40% level.

So the question must be raised: despite his ability to raise money --P. T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute, why would ANY candidate want to be seen anywhere near George W Bush?
Charlie Black, a Republican strategist advising McCain's campaign...said the real question will be how to use Bush after Republicans nominate their candidate next September.

"That'll just depend on what the political circumstances are then. With any president, you have to see what his popularity is, which issues he's popular on and which issues he's not. Some states are better than others for him," Black said.
Well, what issues DOES he poll well in? There's the question.

Probably not many. He's made a case for a stronger economy now than four years ago, and that case does seem to resonate in certain quarters where champagne is served in crystal flutes at dinner. Of course, ask Joe Lunchpail and he'll tell you he's working harder and seeing less of his pay than eight years ago, before Bush's tax cuts.

His handling of terrorism? That probably resonates simply because we haven't had an attack on our soil. Whether that's due to diligent work by his administration or whether we've just seen a lull in the action is debatable....highly debatable. For those who are already prone to be sympathetic to this numbnuts, he'll be credited with keeping us "safe".

Of course, the likely targets for any future terror attacks are all blue states, so it's not likely he'd be campaigning in New York City for anyone anytime soon. But scare enough people in a Nebraska corn belt, and you can rustle up some bucks, I'm sure.

There aren't many other areas that Bush can easily claim a clear-cut improvement to any one sector of people. He's in New York City today to tout "No Child Left Behind," which is due for renewal by Congress this session, and indeed, based on test scores, things have improved slightly in nationwide education.

But those test scores are deceiving. For one thing, it's only math that's improved and we lagged much farther behind in math than in reading and English. That was probably the easier of the two scores to bring up, and it came at a cost, several costs, many costs, in fact: teachers suspended for cheating on the test scores, teaching to the test to the detriment of other essential education areas, ignoring things like civics and the arts for a mundane, dronish classroom that will put off more and more children the older they get, things like that.

So we can see that Bush's impact on the 2008 elections, while not zero, will be highly targeted, very specific, and will probably be under the radar.

Unless the Democrats can successfully tie whatever candidate runs to Bush. Then all bets are off.