After losing control of the Senate and 30 House seats in 2006, the GOP is bracing for losses of six to nine in the Senate, and two dozen to three dozen additional seats in the House.
If the party “were a dog food,” says Rep. Tom Davis, “they would take us off the shelf.”
Bush’s approval is 25 percent. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton left office with ratings more than twice as high.
But while John McCain and others have deplored the Bush failures, what, exactly, did he do wrong?
What were the policy blunders to which Republicans vehemently objected at the time?
That Bush is a Big Government Republican is undeniable. His two great social spending initiatives, prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare and No Child Left Behind, so testify. But how many Republicans opposed Bush on these initiatives? How many have called for the abolition of either program, or for raising payroll taxes to pay for prescription drugs?
McCain now supports the Bush judges and justices and the Bush tax cuts, as do almost all Republicans.
True, Bush sought amnesty for illegal aliens and backs the free-trade globalism that exported our manufacturing base and 3 million to 4 million jobs. But McCain is even more enthusiastic about both.
Does the party dissent on free trade and mass immigration?
Two-thirds of Americans now believe the Iraq war a mistake. Yet, all but a few Republicans backed the war. At the time of “Mission Accomplished!” in May 2003, the nation gave Bush a 90 percent approval rating, as his father had after Desert Storm.
What turned America against the war was not the decision to invade, oust Saddam, destroy the weapons of mass destruction and depart, but the long, bloody slog, the five-year war, with nearly 5,000 dead, that Iraq became. It was not the lightning war of Tommy Franks, with journalists riding tanks into Baghdad, that soured America, but the unanticipated duration and cost of the war.
Yet, Republicans still believe that the war was not a mistake, only mishandled. And now that Gen. Petraeus got it right in Iraq, they say, we should pursue the Petraeus policy in Afghanistan.
How many Republicans have repudiated the Bush Doctrine that got us into Iraq — the belief that only by making the world democratic can we keep America secure and free?
Americans no longer believe that, if ever they did. And history proves them right. For Iraq has never been democratic, and America has always been free. Yet, the Republican Party has never renounced the Bush Doctrine
Indeed, it is being applied today in Afghanistan.
That war, too, after we failed at Tora Bora to capture or kill bin Laden, has become a long slog to create a democratic Afghanistan, which, like a democratic Iraq, has never before existed.
In Afghanistan, we are entering the eighth year of war with victory further away than ever. The Taliban grows stronger. U.S. casualties are surging. Opium exports are breaking records. Our NATO allies grow weary. Even the Brits are talking of reconciliation with the Taliban, perhaps accepting a dictator.
These two wars helped to cripple the Bush presidency and end the GOP ascendancy. Yet, at the highest levels of the party, one hears no serious questioning of the ideology that produced these wars. McCain has pledged to stay in Iraq until “victory” and send 10,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Nor have Republicans objected to the U.S. air strikes that have killed hundreds of Afghans, or the Predator strikes that have inflamed Pakistan or the helicopter raid into Syria that humiliated Damascus and enraged the population. If Republicans disagree with these policies and actions, their voices are muted.
Bush is for facing down Russia and bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Does any Republican disagree? For McCain is more hawkish than Bush when it come to Moscow.
The party says it is losing because the economy went south. But who caused that? Was it not because Republicans colluded with Democrats in pushing “affordable housing,” subprime mortgages, for folks who could not afford houses?
Is the GOP prepared to demand tough terms for home loans?
Was it not GOP presidents who appointed the Fed chairmen who pumped up the money supply and created the bubble? How many Republicans objected to the easy money when the going was good?
The country wishes to be rid of the Bush policies and the Bush presidency. But where does the Republican Party think Bush went wrong, other than to be asleep at the wheel during Katrina?
The GOP needs to confront the truth: The failure of the Bush presidency lies not in a failed execution of policy but in the policies themselves and the neoconservative ideology that informed them.
Yet, still, the party remains in denial, refusing to come to terms with the causes of its misfortune. One expects they will be given the time and opportunity for reflection soon.
“The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.”