Is President Bush Irrelevant Yet?

The president's exceedingly low standing among the American public would probably bottom out and perhaps even rise a bit if he would stop, er, prevaricating. I was reminded how easily untruths seem to roll (perhaps spin) off his tongue this weekend when he graciously met with "the enemy" (to wit, congressional Democrats) then immediately succeeded in stamping out all evidence of grace by dissembling.

It took guts on his part to appear before "the enemy's" annual issues conference. But only a seasoned liar could have told members of the other party: "I welcome debate in a time of war, and I hope you know that... Nor do I consider a belief that if you don't happen to agree with me, you don't share the same sense of patriotism I do. You can get that thought out of your mind if that's what some believe."

This statement is so easily contravened by the record that Mr. Bush comes across as giving the rhetorical version of a Bronx cheer to the facts and flat out nuking them. For example, in November '05, Bush told U.S. troops in Alaska "that critics 'are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible.'"

He repeated that statement or something like it again and again.

This is not an administration that brooks dissent with aplomb. The public is finally starting to notice. And you'd think administration spin doctors would have, as well. But no, they march wearily along, soldiers of God that they are, hoping the walls of Jericho don't take them out as those walls collapse. Two weeks ago, a
Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll
found that "just 22% of Americans say they want the president to set policy for the country, 27% express confidence in his goals, and 28% approve his handling of the Iraq war. Only one third of Americans rate Bush highly for being 'honest and straightforward'--down from half at the start of his second term two years ago."

If only 22 percent of Americans want the commander in chief setting U.S. policy, how far from irrelevance is this presidency? Not far is the surest bet.

Maybe Tony Snow and Co. should take spin lessons from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's communications team. Pelosi's news releases called the president "incompetent" and worse prior to last year's elections. But since the election, she has not pretended she never said anything untoward about Mr. Bush during the contest. She has merely said that the election is over and that it's time for bipartisan unity and for the two parties to work together. Take a hint, Mr. President.

By Bonnie Erbe