It looks like Bush's layers are peeling, "big time," as Cheney would say.
The fiscal hawks are abandoning ship in droves. Take this article from the Prudent Bear, a website of market analysts (and one that, if you read the rhetoric, is at least center-right, "not a bunch of lefties," as C&L puts it), titled "Neither Compassionate nor Conservative." Their point: the Bush Administration has overseen the greatest increase in domestic spending in recent memory, and their response to the hurricane showed that it places PR over protecting the country's citizens. Thus the title. It also blasts the prez for rampant cronyism and lack of adherence to any real political philosophy, but what makes the article particularly distressing for the president's cause is that it echoes what more leftist viewpoints have been arguing for some time, to the chagrin and disgust of the right: the uncanny similarities between the Bush Administration and fascist states.
And then there's Rick Santorum. Santorum is the 3rd most powerful figure in the Senate, and arguably the face of congress' Christian conservatives (particularly those of the wacko variety). Today, he took a couple of potshots at W over his handling of Social Security privatization (courtesy TPMcafe). Now, it's not all that weird for Santorum to be calling W to task; after all, they've disagreed before, and Santorum is quickly running out of time to extricate himself from the anvil that is W's freefalling poll numbers (Santorum's up for re-election next year, and is trailing Democrat Bob Casey by 12 points). As Mark Schmitt notes, though, what is most telling is where the press release originated:
"The story was e-mailed out widely to reporters at 9:08 this morning by the Senate Republican Conference itself." Schmitt continues:
This might be the official declaration of the end, not just of Social Security privatization, but of deference to Bush. And members of Congress, especially those like Santorum who are worried about reelection, have so many years of docility to make up for that if they really want to separate themselves from a highly unpopular president, they will have to make a very fast, very decisive break.
And, of course, there are other Republicans on Capitol Hill, too. The Washington Post reports on congressional Republicans repudiating W's "throw a wad of money at it" approach to handling Gulf Coast recovery.
Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.
Trying to allay mounting concerns, White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten met with Republican senators for an hour after their regular Tuesday lunch. Senators emerged to say they were annoyed by the lack of concrete ideas for paying the Hurricane Katrina bill.
Very entertaining," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said sarcastically as he left the session. "I haven't heard any specifics from the administration."
"At least give us some idea" of how to cover the cost, said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing reelection in 2006. "We owe that to the American taxpayer."
The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White House is also confronting among House Republicans, represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president's approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.
W is now facing a new, and very real, problem: for the first time in his political career, he's losing his base, and not just 1 or 2 layers of it. Considering the fact that he's screwed pretty much all of them at various points, it will be interesting to see which ones stick it out, and which ones bail.