Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Future, Conan?

I've been thinking a little bit about the President's choice to wage a new political campaign to fix his ratings problems, his "War on Unpopularity," if you will. It seems to me that W has staked not only the future of his agenda, but the future of the Republican congressional majority, on this campaign. I could be wrong here, but I think the chances of the campaign having zero effect on his approval ratings (and thus those of the Republican party) are slim to none; there will be an effect, be it positive or negative.

Obviously, if it works, then he can halt the Democratic march to congressional hegemony and salvage much of his agenda while giving Republican presidential hopefuls a boost for '08.

The problem is, I'm not sure if this result is all that likely. W's most politically foreboding PR problem right now is that the public no longer sees him as trustworthy (as the earlier poll I linked to suggests). How, then, is speechifying and pontificating and finger-pointing going to help if the people don't trust what he says? Furthermore, every time the Democrats call him on one of his misrepresentations (as they're doing now with his "the Democrats had the same intelligence as me" argument), the American people will feel that their view of him is further confirmed: namely, that he is not to be trusted.

At this point, if nothing changes in the polls, the Democrats stand to gain at least one house of Congress, and could possibly gain both. If W's campaign backfires and his credibility continues to slip, the Republican majority in either house will be all but lost, and the Dems could well end up with a huge House majority (the Republicans gained 52 seats in '94 when Clinton's approval ratings were better than Bush's current ones, and the Democrats only need 17 to regain control at this point). The Republicans would then have to rely on a Republican presidential victory in '08 to offset Congress.

This brings up some interesting questions: what would happen to Bush if his worst-case scenario transpired? For one, his agenda in its current manifestation would be sunk. His agenda is hard right-wing, and it as such it was designed with Republican majorities in mind. He would have to completely recalibrate his priorities to stave off utter lame duckery.

That possibility, however, could be the least of his problems. A month ago several major polls (here and here) asked the question, "Should the president be impeached if it is proven that he misled the country into war?" Some 51% answered yes. That number will certainly grow if Bush's campaign backfires. A Republican or split Congress would never consider the question of impeachment, nor in my opinion would a slim Dem majority. The bigger the Democratic majority, however, the more likely it is that they would consider an investigation, and possibly impeachment proceedings.

Would it be the right thing to do? I dunno, it would entirely on the evidence. Politically speaking, the drawback would be that W would probably be in his final year of office anyway by the time the trial would get underway. On the other hand, a successful removal would be a blight on the Republicans' reputation that would take a long time to live down. And right on time for the '08 elections.

What's your take on all this?

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