So, Where Were We?
With a very weird stretch of time marked by the Schiavo saga, the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II, and even a Royal Wedding, it's a good time to take stock of where things are politically.
Things are not looking good for George W. Bush and his party. His approval ratings have sagged after leaping after the Iraqi elections. The famously disciplined GOP is divided over a whole host of matters, with the famously pampered conservative base as unhappy as it's been in a long time.
Bush's main domestic initiative, his Social Security privatization push, has gone nowhere, after months of presidential hype. Senate Republicans seem to be waivering in their long-threatened determination to ram through Bush's judicial nominations by outlawing filibusters. House Republicans are now indelibly identified with their Leader, Tom DeLay, who's working hard to achieve Gingrich-level pariah status, even aside from his ethics recidivism and his growing enmeshment in the Abramaoff-Indian-Casino-Shakedown scandal. House and Senate Republicans are at odds on a whole variety of substantive and political issues, including the budget, which may never get resolved this year despite growing public worries about ever-escalating public debts. The economy is chugging along in low gear, but not much so you'd notice. What people are noticing is a continuing health care cost spiral, which the GOPers haven't a single clue how to confront, and now a gasoline price spiral, which Bush energy policies would make worse.
International affairs remain a relative bright spot for Bush, but now the post-election euphoria on Iraq has turned into another tense period of uncertainty, and the recent presidential commission report on the whole Iraq WMD issue has poured a few more gallons of cold water on the administration's international credibility. Promising developments are still underway in Palestine and especially in Lebanon, but in neither arena is a dramatic pro-democracy, pro-peace breakthrough as likely as it appeared a few weeks ago.
It probably won't help Bush internationally that his next scheduled act is a high-profile confirmation fight over a proposed ambassador to the U.N. whose public record contains a string of obnoxious unilateralist comments as long as your arm. And to top it all off, his most important foreign ally, Tony Blair, is in a tough election fight; if Labour loses or simply loses a lot of ground, it will be almost entirely attributable to W.
If you add it up, the president and his party appear to be in a whole heap o' trouble, with no obvious relief in sight.
This doesn't necessarily translate itself into political gains for Democrats (more about that in near-future posts), but we can pretty much forget about the idea that Bush and company are off to a roaring second-term start. --