Novak: Bush Out of Touch With His Own Party

Posted on March 26, 2007

Bob Novak writes in The Washington Post that in fifty years, he has never seen a president so out of touch with his own party.
With nearly two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is alone. In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress -- not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.

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But not many Republican lawmakers would speak up for Gonzales even if they were sure Bush would stick with him. He is the least popular Cabinet member on Capitol Hill, even more disliked than Rumsfeld was. The word most often used by Republicans to describe the management of the Justice Department under Gonzales is "incompetent."

Attorneys general in recent decades have ranged from skilled political operatives close to the president (most notably Bobby Kennedy under John F. Kennedy) to nonpolitical lawyers detached from the president (such as Ed Levi under Gerald Ford). Gonzales is surely close to Bush, but nobody would accuse him of being skilled at politics. He puzzled and alarmed conservatives with a January speech in which he claimed that he would take over from the White House the selection of future federal judicial nominees.

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The I-word (incompetence) is also used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to cited a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the USA Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?"
John Kerry noted over and over during the 2004 campaign that the Bush Administraton's hallmark is its incompetence: at invading Iraq, at securing our borders and at just about every other project they have engaged in. Now Republican lawmakers are grumbling to Novak and any other columnist that will listen about how out of touch the administration is and how incompetently the war has been run. Not to mention all the emerging scandals -- from Attorneygate to the Walter Reed debacle to Plamegate. Republican senators and representatives are not happy about facing the electorate in 2008 with this record.