George W. Bush, One-Term President
GWB is going down. History books will mark both Bush presidencies as one-term tenures marked by war in the Middle East and crushing financial instability. There's the hard evidence: His poll numbers have been sinking (just like employment figures) and corner men like Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf are saying we need more proof if we even think about going into Iraq.
But for me the "Oh, damn, he's toast" moment came during a phone call with a long time friend and former roommate. Elaine is a total 'Sex and the City' style fashion plate who would rather read Lucky than Week in Review. She's also a recovering Young Republican. But she called me frothing about Bush's plan to give special tax breaks to people who buy SUVs. "I've got to volunteer for the Democrats," she sputtered. "Tell me what to do!!"
I lifted the phone from my ear. Who had replaced my power-shopping friend with a political activist? I thought, if Bush has pissed off the silent majority, people who are more comfortable voting nightly with their remotes than during elections, he is really in deep doo doo. Alas, the Democrats have all the charisma of cartoon chump Dudley Do-Right, but there's nobody else on Capitol Hill to cut us from the tracks as the war train rushes in.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush laced his hard-right policy agenda with a couple of compassionate conservatisms, like a modest plan for AIDS relief in Africa. Of course this is the same administration that cut international family planning and condom distribution. The President took Americans' silent grief over 9/11 as a policy mandate. But there is no mandate for war, or tax cuts for the rich, or ending abortion or most other Bush-era initiatives. Voters in the center are waking up and realizing they've been had.
What do I mean by "had"? Let me break out one example -- the link between the drumbeat for war and oil profiteering.
Vice President Dick Cheney received a $34 million severance package from Halliburton, the company he headed between Bush regimes. During his time at Halliburton, Cheney brokered $73 million in oil equipment contracts through subsidiaries with Iraq. Yes, that Iraq, the one he fought for Bush-pere and the one he's angling to fight again. Sounds like a protection racket to me. I know we blew you guys up a little bit, but, y'know, we can fix it. For a price.
A war in Iraq will open an incredible oil and natural gas supply, 30 percent of the world's total, to Western companies. And President Bush has made himself into the foremost advocate for American oil interests. He ran a failing oil company called Arbusto (Bush in Spanish), but through family connections parlayed it into stock in a larger company, and eventually a sweetheart investment in the Texas Rangers.
As a governor he proposed tax protection for oil producers and got $50 million in campaign donations from oil and energy companies during the 2000 race. In addition to the buildup around Iraq, the government has recently expanded our involvement in the civil war in Columbia in order to protect a pipeline for Occidental Petroleum.
In the words of Secretary of State Colin Powell, "We thought a $98 million investment in Colombian brigades to help protect this pipeline is a wise one and a prudent one." And in the words of columnist Arianna Huffington, "Oxy will never give taxpayers free gas in exchange for our pipeline protection subsidy. Instead, we'll pay for it three times over: on tax day, at the gas pump, and, finally, when the flag-draped coffins start being shipped home."
And here's the doozy my friend got worked up about. The new Bush tax cut proposal would give business owners who buy huge-assed SUVs a 50 percent increase in an already-generous deduction[Free registration required]. It means people who don't need them will be financially stupid not to buy them.
For example, someone who bought a fully loaded Hummer (perfect for your local florist shop!) could deduct $87,000. By contrast, if the same business bought a car, the owner could only deduct $7660 in the first year. In his state of the Union Speech, the President proposed "$1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles." Hydrogen combustion engines will end our dependence on foreign oil, but only if the government stops rewarding people for buying gas guzzlers first.
The prospect of body bags for oil will alienate swing voters. So will the administration's looming battle against affirmative action, which may erode their attempts to reach Latino voters, and what the New York Times describes as a war on women -- not just against abortion, but also family planning, condoms and sex education. Then there's that pesky problem of the economy: We can't blame 9/11 forever, and we certainly aren't going to solve the problems facing working- and middle-class families by giving tax cuts to the rich.
Bush eked out a victory by convincing just enough women, Americans of color, and working families that he was on their side. But his attempts to appease his religious right and corporate donors are so blatant, it'll be impossible for him to play the same aw-shucks, just-folks role next time around.
Aw, shucks. Bye bye.
Farai Chideya is the founder of PopAndPolitics.com