Bush Ticks Off Conservatives
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The unthinkable has happened: Some of President Bush's faithful are ticked off at him.
Conservative TV talk show host Bill O'Reilly kicked off the Bush bash when he said, "I was wrong" in blindly parroting Bush's misstatements about the war. Other conservatives say they feel hurt, betrayed, conned and lied to about Iraq, phantom WMD, and his inept handling of the economy. They also have taken potshots at the elder Bushes for building a fortune by snuggling up to Middle East despots and dictators, including Bush's devil incarnate, Saddam Hussein. This, of course, is the same crowd that salivated over every syllable from the White House and hacked up anyone who dared utter a whimper of criticism.
The grousing of a handful of media and conservative Bush apologists hardly means that the Bush ship of state is about to sink. Barring a Watergate-type scandal implicating Bush in illegal misconduct or corruption, he still holds some trump cards. He has a colossal campaign war chest, a good chunk of the conservative media in his hip pocket, the rock-solid backing of the majority of conservative white males, the White House bully pulpit to slam the Democrats and hype his accomplishments, and he can boast that he, not a Democrat, can best wage the war against terrorism. He proved that he could grab headlines and deflect criticism by demanding a global ban on WMD.
The presumptive Democratic nominee, John Kerry, has still not found a touch-a-nerve political issue, raised a king's ransom in campaign funds or attained household name recognition. These are the bare requisites that a presidential challenger needs, in order to have any chance of knocking off a sitting president.
When the political chips are really down, O'Reilly and the other conservatives that rail at Bush will almost certainly close ranks and punch the Bush ticket. Yet, before the conservative dust up with Bush over Iraq, WMD and the economy, millions were already ticked off at Bush. He ticked off Democrats and even some Republicans with his draconian tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporate interests. He ticked off environmentalists with his bid to open the Alaskan Artic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, and to open wilderness areas to be ravaged by mining and logging interests, and his refusal to sign the Kyoto global warming treaty.
He ticked off civil liberties groups with his gut of civil liberties protections in the Patriot Act, and the even more draconian Patriot Act II rumored to be on the drawing board, and his messianic effort to ram a gaggle of ultra-conservative, borderline racist, and homophobic judges through Congress.
He ticked off many senior citizen advocate groups by shoving through Congress a Medicare prescription drug benefit bill that lines the pockets of pharmaceuticals, and erodes Medicare coverage and protections. He alienated women's groups by waging a relentless war against abortion rights. He offended gay groups by virtually declaring that he will back a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The League of Conservation voters, which did not make a presidential endorsement in 2000, is so terrorized of a Bush second term that it has virtually declared that it might break its tradition of political neutrality and back a Democrat in 2004.
Also, the Green Party was pounded from pillar to post for running Ralph Nader in 2000 and tipping the election to Bush. That won't happen this time. Though Nader says he might run again, it will be without the official backing of the Greens. They are scared stiff of Bush too, and many Greens will hold their nose and vote for whichever Democrat gets the presidential nod.
Then there's the chronic bigotry of the Republican Party. Bush has virtually dropped the early lip service he played to promoting diversity and inclusion and has subtly inflamed white male passions by publicly backing the anti-affirmative action lawsuit by white students against the University of Michigan decided by the Supreme Court, and filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting it.
He has refused to back expanded hate crimes legislation, and his done nothing to prod Congress to allocate the billions that he promised to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and a parade of state and Congressional Republicans have made foot-in-the-mouth racial and gender slurs of blacks, Jews and Japanese-Americans. The silence of top Republicans -- and that includes the man in the White House -- over the naked bigotry of many in his party has deeply polarized voters and turned the American electorate into hopelessly warring camps.
November is a long way away, and anything can happen. But the wrath of O'Reilly and company is an early warning sign that Bush's reelection may not be the walkover he thought. He has ticked off too many folks for that to happen.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. Visit his news and opinion website: www.thehutchinsonreport.com. He is the author of "The Crisis in Black and Black" (Middle Passage Press).