Democracy On The March? Nah

President Bush - August 9, 2007
CBS
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Remember President Bush's sweeping goal of "ending tyranny around the world," laid out during his 2004 inaugural address?

The Washington Post serves up some recent examples and hard analysis of just how dead in the water that idea now is.

During a democracy conference in Prague in June, Mr. Bush sat down with opposition leaders from authoritarian societies, pledged to order U.S. ambassadors to meet with dissidents, and boasted he had created a fund to help embattled human-rights defenders.

But the State Department didn't send out the cable directing ambassadors to sit down with dissidents until two months later, the Post reports. "And, to this day, not a nickel has been transferred to the fund he touted."

That sort of inability to put his money where his mouth is has become the rule rather than the exception when it comes to advancing his democracy agenda, the Post reports. Of course, it's not all Mr. Bush's fault. Many in his administration never bought into the idea, and some even undermined it, "including his own vice president."

But in some ways, his grand proclamation didn't just get bogged down in Washington bureaucracy; it backfired. The Post notes that Mr. Bush's vision has become so identified with his own unpopularity that at a recent debate Republican candidates couldn't seem to distance themselves from his democracy-spreading agenda fast enough.

Of course, the backlash might have been avoided. Although hyping liberty has long been a favorite presidential pastime, no president -– not even Ronald Regan –- devoted more words in a major speech to the notion of spreading democracy than Mr. Bush did.

That may be because, beyond a little pro-democratic nod here and there, it's not such a good idea, i.e. Hamas sweeps to power in the Gaza Strip thanks to the ballot box.

"Such sweeping rhetoric might have generated objections from the professional diplomats at the State Department who normally review presidential addresses," the Post reports. But as former Bush counselor Dan Barlett explained, "That's why you don't show them the speech."

One Place Bush's Policies Are Not So Good For Business

Dissent groups in authoritarian nations and Republican presidential candidates aren't the only ones taking a direct hit from the president's flagging popularity. The Wall Street Journal reports that souvenir shops near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, have suffered such a dip in business in the past couple of years they've had to shut down.

Adding insult to injury, even the Iraq war protesters who once parked themselves near Bush's driveway, led by Cindy Sheehan, have all but disappeared. "Although many of the town's merchants resented the attacks on their local hero," the Journal reports, "they were glad to sell the visitors T-shirts and ice."

Part of the problem is that the hero isn't so local any more. CBS Radio's veteran White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who has kept an informal record of the presidents sojurns to his 1,600-acre ranch, Mr. Bush has only visited four time so far this year, compared to 17 times in all of 2004.

But beyond that, the Journal reports that Bush memorabilia – such artist prints depicting Mr. Bush in his "Mission Accomplished" flight suit – just doesn't hold much allure for tourists these days.

$10 Plane Tickets (Plus $17 For Soda And Blanket)

The Los Angeles Times leads with a look at Skybus Airlines, a new bargain basement carrier that, if it can stay in business, "could be the future."

Dubbed the ultimate "low-cost, no-frills" airline, it offered tickets to some passengers flying from Burbank, Cal. To Columbus, Ohio for $10. Not everyone on the plane gets so lucky, but regular one-way fare is still a steal at $50.

But the extras add up. Want priority boarding to avoid the dreaded middle seat? That's $10. Checking a bag? That'll be $5. Each. Hungry? Breakfast "entree" of bagel, pastry, yogurt and fruit costs $8. After meal service, flight attendants push another cart down the aisle loaded with $98 cubic zirconia bracelets and $125 Skagen watches.

The airline has been adding flights throughout the summer, and now has routes to 11 cities nationwide. The average fare is actually $100, but that's still pretty stunning. If only we could think of some reason to go to Columbus.

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    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.