Under the Sun
When going gets rough, fair-weather friends fly
AFTER losing the election for New Jersey governor last week, Republican Douglas Forrester put the blame on George W. Bush.
Here's a guy who willingly hitched his star to the president's, opened his arms to Bush guru Karl Rove and alter-ego Dick Cheney, then has the nerve to complain when their propellant fails to launch him to the political stratosphere.
"If Bush's numbers were where they were a year ago, or even six months ago, I think we would have won," Forrester grumbled, failing to consider that his loss might have had something to do with his own shortcomings.
However, when it rains, it pours and the man in the middle of a political storm is seeing fair-weather friends ducking for cover.
Even a low-profile GOP House member from Arizona, J.D. Hayworth, is shunning Bush, saying he doesn't want the president anywhere near his reelection campaign.
With the fire of his presidency doused by mistakes, overcalculated staging rather than genuine action and a blunt insensitivity to the concerns of ordinary people, Bush finds his power dribbling away.
A few months ago, a Republican Congress walked in step behind him. Today, as his popularity plummets to new lows, the party faithful -- fearing for their own okoles in next year's elections -- are putting distance between themselves and the president, albeit tentatively.
Meanwhile, Democrats are rediscovering their backbones, finding strength in public opinion to buck the majority party and Bush.
The result of this new orientation? Reasonable compromise, instead of imperial rule. In the Senate yesterday, Republicans and Democrats were able to agree on a plan to require the White House to provide extensive quarterly reports to Congress on the war in Iraq. The amendment, which received rare bipartisan support, reflects a shift from a Bush-can-do-no-wrong stance Republicans had adopted.
The president's loss of power could be a blessing for a nation that prospers from give and take. This is the way things are supposed to work. Corralling authority in one branch of government leaves too many people and good policy in the dust.
Bush, however, remains inflexible. Never having made the transition from political campaign to orderly administration, the president and his advisers have run back to familiar tactics. But coloring those who dissent and who take issue with his actions as traitors, as unpatriotic, has become inoperative because that notion isn't true and never has been.
Having lost much of the public's trust, Bush must find it again and it won't be in the pockets of the rich, or the corporations and industries he so favors. These, too, are fair weather friends, the ones who constantly ask "what have you done for me lately?" and who will abandon him when they don't like the answers.
There are probably lots of people snubbed by Bush and party who are taking some measure of delight in his recent troubles. You can't blame them, but saying "I told you so" doesn't really accomplish much.
The guy, like him or hate him, is still the president of the United States. For three more years, he will lead and represent the country, which has seen its prestige and honor on the skids.
After 9/11, America gained the compassion and support of other nations and their people. Bush and company squandered an opportunity to lead by humane example, and instead morphed the country into a world-class bully.
Much as he did when he turned 40 and saw that his drinking was pulling him down, Bush needs a flash of insight to turn himself around and to realize that true friendship blossoms through trust and fairness, not fear of power.
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Cynthia Oi has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org