Lynn Nofziger, retired Republican hardball political operator, sits at home and frets:
Like father, like son, maybe. Is George W. Bush following in the footsteps of George H. W. Bush and kicking away his chances of being re-elect? It sure is possible.
True, the times are different and the issues are different, but the Bushes themselves are very much alike in that both have taken substantial leads in the polls and by their own decisions and misjudgments whittled them down to nothing.
The senior Bush made three key misjudgments. He thought he could get away with a tax increase after having promised, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” He ran a terrible re-election campaign in which he terribly misjudged not only his own strength but also the strength of his opposition. And at the last minute he relied on a sulking James Baker to pull his irons out of the fire who just might have done it if he had come on the scene earlier and devoted his considerable talents to the job.
I think this president Bush is running a far better re-election campaign than did his father and perhaps that can be his salvation. Nevertheless, to counter this he is screwing up on not just one issue, but several.
He is the most profligate spender in the nation’s history even though his party is supposed to be the party that opposes deficit spending. And it isn’t just the major spending increases on medicare, education and agriculture that has his supporters irate; it’s the little spending, too, including increased spending for the hated National Endowment for the Arts, to say nothing of the pork barrel spending in nearly every one of the nation’s congressional districts.
Instead of clamping down on illegal immigration and tightening border security he is proposing what in effect is amnesty for the ten million-plus illegals, mostly Mexicans, already here.
He is badly mishandling the indications that he took this country to war in Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence from the CIA. Instead of admitting the gross errors and moving to correct them he is defending them. What he ought to do is fire the head of the CIA, George Tenet, who is a holdover from the Clinton administration and move to correct what is obviously a bad situation. As it is he is open to continued, and at least semi-justified attacks from the Democrats.
Finally, lurking in the background is the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law which he promised to veto but signed.
It is doubtful that his appointment of conservative judges or even the fear that a Democrat president would name liberals to the Supreme Court, or his signing of the anti-partial birth abortion measure or his tax cut measures are enough to counter what most conservatives view either as mistakes in judgment or indications that at heart he is, like his father, not one of them.
One more sign that Bush is vulnerable.
[Update: for the avoidance of doubt, I'd better explain the 'one of us' reference in the headline is not to anything Nofziger said, but rather to the late Hugo Young's perfect pitch biography of Margret Thatcher.]