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Bush's Desperation Agenda

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History teaches that when faced with desperate circumstances, humans will engage in bizarre behavior, such as cannibalism or ritual sacrifice. It may be too early to report that the White House menu includes Cheney pot roast, but it is clear that Dubya and company are in a very bad spot. A crisis has forced them to abandon their plans and offer America a desperation agenda.

The President's Monday night TV address is another indication of the hopeless situation the White House is in. Bush's immigration "plan" pleased no one, but he's stuck with it. His administration has lost its rudder and is being guided by the strongest wind blowing at the moment.

Shortly after being reelected, Bush declared, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it [on my] agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror." Eighteen months later, Bush's political capital is gone and he has little to show for it. Social Security reform has been scuttled. So has his promise to massively rework the tax code. The economy has moved forward but only for corporations and the wealthy. Paradoxically, Bush's "no child left behind" education reform has left millions of children behind. Thanks to unprecedented Administration ineptitude, we are losing the war on terror. And, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that America remains woefully unprepared for another terrorist attack.

The President's second-term agenda has failed and the mood in the White House has turned from ebullience to panic. Sitting in the ruins of a failed strategy, recognizing that Bush's political capital is gone and his popularity is evaporating, the Administration has turned to a desperation agenda: social issues. In June the Senate will consider a constitutional amendment to limit the definition of marriage to between a man and a woman. Later they will consider another constitutional amendment making it a crime to burn the American flag. Meanwhile, conservatives demand legislation to outlaw transporting minors across state lines for abortions and increasing fines for broadcasting obscenity.

What should the US agenda be? The Gallup Poll provides some answers. Their most recent poll asked respondents, "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" Twenty-nine percent said the "situation in Iraq/war" and another five percent said "terrorism." Twenty-two percent responded "fuel/oil prices" and another four percent said "lack of energy sources; the energy crisis." Thirteen percent answered "Immigration/illegal aliens." Eleven percent said "Economy in general" and another 6 percent indicated that is was healthcare. Finally nine percent indicated that their primary concern was public morality, "dissatisfaction with government" poor leadership; corruption" and another fie percent said that it was "ethics" dishonesty; lack of integrity."

A real agenda would address these issues. It would say something more about Iraq than "stay the course." A comprehensive agenda would be honest about the problems with Homeland Security that were revealed in Katrina's wake and propose actual solutions. The Repugs would detail a real energy plan, rather than a faux proposal that settles for more oil wells. The White House would address economic inequality, particularly health care, rather than claim, "trust us, trickle down is working." Finally, the Bush Administration and the GOP would address the issue of public morality. They would pass real ethics reform legislation, and fully cooperate with ongoing Justice Department investigations, such as the Brent Wilkes defense-contract-kickback scandal.

But the Bush Administration won't propose a real agenda because they are strategically vacuous and morally bankrupt. For five years they've hidden their ineptitude fact behind a carefully crafted image of George Bush's bonhomie, the widely shared notion that Dubya cared about the common good because "He's a Christian." Now their fa├žade is collapsing. Even conservatives are beginning to question the President's leadership, asking, "is there any there, there?"

While the Bush Administration self-destructs, the Democrats have quietly been developing their own agenda for America. They have a well thought out plan for Iraq, national security, and energy independence. They've also addressed the economy, immigration, and public morality

As Bush's numbers plummet, increasing number of "safe" Republican seats are vulnerable. The latest Time magazine reports that Democratic newcomer Jim Webb and incumbent Virginia Republican George Allen are now tied in the polls. Senator Allen was once mentioned as a possible 2008 presidential candidate, but he has suffered because of his blind support for the war and the President.

The White House is thrashing and we should expect more desperate behavior. Perhaps even the ritual sacrifice of Karl Rove or Don Rumsfeld.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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