It seems like only yesterday American pundits
were writing political obituaries for President George W. Bush and his Republican
allies on Capitol Hill. With the anti-American violence in Iraq showing no signs
of ending any time soon and helping to force Mr. Bush's approval ratings in
the public opinion polls to the low 30s, the consensus among political analysts
in Washington was that the Republicans would suffer a major blow in the coming
mid-term congressional elections in November.
Indeed, some observers speculated that if the opposition Democrats took control
of the House of Representatives and the Senate, they would not only launch investigations
into the Bush administration's conduct in the events leading to the decision
to attack Iraq, but they might even consider taking steps to impeach the current
White House occupant.
This doomsday scenario (from the Republican perspective) seems less likely
now that President Bush and the Republicans have decided to embrace an aggressive
nationalist agenda aimed at igniting more fear of The Terrorists (or anyone
who looks and sounds like The Terrorists) and hostility toward those who allegedly
appease The Terrorists, including the "liberal" press and the Democrats.
The strategy promoted by Mr. Bush's top political
aide Karl Rove (who contrary to earlier expectations won't be tried for perjury;
another piece of good news for the Republicans), which seemed to have worked
quite effectively during the 2004 mid-term elections and the 2006 general election,
could probably help the Republicans hang on to power in Congress while providing
the War President with an opportunity to rally the American voters behind him.
In a way, the killing of terrorist gang leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ended up
as the opening shot of sorts in the Bush administration's nationalist campaign.
His death and the formation of a new Iraqi government helped to produce another
we-are-turning-the-tide-in-Mesopotamia media spin that was crowned by Mr. Bush's
visit to Baghdad's Green Zone.
It was a bit ironic that the White House moved ahead in promoting its contention
that we-are-winning-the-war-on-terrorism at the same time that that war seemed
to suffer major setbacks in both Afghanistan and Somalia, where radical Islamic
guerillas were on the offensive.
Well, never mind. The Bushies and the Republican forces on Capitol Hill were
themselves on the offensive, politically speaking, charging that the Democrats
who were urging that the Bush administration start setting a timeline for withdrawing
the U.S. troops from Iraq were in favor of "cutting and running" –
one Republican lawmaker accused the Democrats of supporting a "cutting-and-jogging"
strategy – that supposedly will play into the hands of the "terrorists."
So in a demonstration of nationalist histrionics, the Republicans forced Congress
to adopt a resolution expressing solidarity with the men and women fighting
in Iraq and opposition to setting a deadline for withdrawal. And a few days
after the resolution had passed, the commander of the U.S. forces proposed such
a deadline for withdrawal.
Well, never mind. This let's-not-stab-our-troops-in-the-back and let's-rally-behind-our-War-President
Republican-induced frenzy was also stirred up through a fierce, and somewhat
nasty, attack by the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans on The New
York Times and other publications for revealing several government surveillance
The Times revealed programs to track terrorist financing by monitoring
international banking system and to secretly monitor, without a court warrant,
thousands of telephone calls made by Americans. Some Republican lawmakers and
pro-administration pundits have even accused the Times of "treason"
and proposed that its editors be jailed.
The Times and other news organizations have argued that their conduct
was a legitimate (and legal) effort to bring public attention to a continuing
(and illegal) attempt by the Bush administration to increase its powers in a
way that violates basic civil rights.
Interestingly enough, the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to have reached a similar
conclusion when it repudiated the U.S. military commissions for detainees at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a ruling last Thursday, suggesting that after a long
deference to the executive branch, the court is starting to check or question
the Bush administration's attempts to broaden the wartime power of the presidency.
Well, never mind. The Bush administration also seems to be trying to fan fears
of terrorism by making dramatic announcements about new discoveries of alleged
terrorist cells in the United States, like the recent arrest of a group of Miami-based
men whom the government accused of concocting a plot to kill "all the devils
we can," starting by blowing up Chicago's Sears Tower.
But according to press reports, the men were members
of a tiny and obscure religious group, some of whom were entrapped by government
informants to fantasize about imaginary plots. They certainly didn't have the
arms and equipment to blow up targets.
Well, never mind – the point is that this kind of be-afraid-very-afraid
strategy could work, especially if it's followed by never-ending red alerts
and leaks about foiled terrorist plots.
Indeed, the most recent opinion polls suggest that the Bush administration's
political jihad against the defeatist Democrats and the treasonous Times
coupled with the highlighting of the "tipping points" in Iraq may
Mr. Bush seems to be gaining a few points in the public opinion polls as voters
conclude that the Republicans are more effective in fighting terrorism than
the Democrats. By November, these sentiments could translate into a Republican
victory, especially as the leaderless and clueless Democrats fail to come up
with an alternative policy that could win voters' support.
Copyright © 2006 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.