What does he do to win this fall? The Iraq war will likely not turn around enough to win Bush points. The economy might be turning around, but consumer confidence is low, and with all those new low-paying jobs it isn't likely to get better. Bush is in trouble, and I am gleeful, but Karl Rove isn't likely to take this sitting on his ample rump.
Besides today's D-Day remembrance, which showcased Bush better than any campaign ad could, and then the Reagan funeral, which will do the same, Bush needs something more. Richard here is predicting a 2004 Willie Horton, and that may well happen. If it happens there are signs here and there that it will focus on the so-called "cultural war." Yup, watch out for Bush to appeal to his base and work mostly behind the scenes to scare average Americans about rap music or gays.
What signs do I refer to? First, I guess the new Texas GOP Convention brought forward a platform that is tougher on gays and all the other issues sacred to the religious right. Second, as reported in The New Republic, Bush and his aids are appealing directly the religious right base. The descriptions are scary.
Just this week, W. delivered a keep-the-faith barn-burner to nearly 2,000 religious leaders and social service workers assembled in Washington for the White House Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In his best preacher's voice, Bush spoke of souls lost and found, the power of the Good Book, and the need to surrender one's life to "a higher being." But his larger goal: Reminding the audience of what a key friend he has been. Stressing his commitment to government funding of religious groups, Bush noted that, when an obstinate Congress tried to block his plans, he outsmarted them by signing an executive order.Is this mere pandering? Perhaps, but it is clear the religious right will never recognize that Bush can't possibly keep funneling government money to them. It is certainly dishonest. What is scarier still is Bush's faith-based Czar:
The more illuminating speech, however, came from Jim Towey, Bush's faith-based czar, who helpfully focused the crowd on the fierce "culture war" still raging in this country. Iraq may be getting all the press these days, he allowed, "but there's also another war that's going on ... that really gets to the heart of the questions about what is the role of faith in the public square." If the anti-Bush forces wind up carrying the day, Towey reportedly warned, "you could almost wind up creating a godless orthodoxy."Yes, disagreements on what is good for this country is, to them, the sign of the devil. Polarization runs amok and the Bush Administration is encouraging it. Even in interviews to religious journalists, and this coming week Bush will be meeting with James Dobson, fresh as he is from being scolded by the Pope over events in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib.
The question is whether Rove's strategy can get enough of the religious right out to vote. For myself, I just can't predict that. Having Bush so beholden to them makes my skin crawl.