I love to be able to say, "I told you so." But then, who doesn’t? Of course, this particular pleasure comes at great expense to our prestige and reputation, so I can take no real pleasure from the eminent collapse of the Bush Administration (well, ok, I do get a little kick from this liberal dose of Schaudenfruede).
Upon Bush’s second inauguration, I predicted that like those of so many Presidents before him, Bush’s second term would be disasterous and unproductive. The signs were already manifest to anyone willing to see them. I predicted that Social Security ‘reform’, and likely any other major Bush initiatives, would die a quiet and unlamented death, and that Bush’s approval rating would end up in the low thirties, possibly even lower than any second term President in history. Bush’s approval now stands at 36% with the GOP Congress at a mere 30%. This before the news that Libby alleged that Bush approved the outing of Valerie Plame has a chance to affect public opinion – though informal polling I’ve seen indicates that some 80% of respondants expected Bush to be behind the leak. I fully expect Bush to drop permanently below 35% over the next month.
The possibility is growing that the Bush Administration will collapse, like that of Nixon, and he will be forced from office prior to the end of his second term if control of Congress changes parties. Howard Dean has surprisingly failed to lower expectations for the 2006 midterms, boldly predicting that Democrats would retake Congress. I believe that has become a realistic possibility. The Democrats don’t even need to work to nationalize the election, the work is being done for them and the ‘throw the bums out’ mood is quietly growing. If Democrats capture the House and/or the Senate this year, and maybe even if they don’t, there will be articles of impeachment introduced in 2007.
The sheer number of the scandals, and the depth of the corruption, is becoming too much for the public to tolerate. The Bush Administration will not ever be able to recover from their current abject position; the only question to my mind is whether they manage to hang on for a full second term. The Administration will become increasingly irrelevant and paralyzed, and Bush will become the most despised President in modern history, easily eclipsing even Nixon’s odiousness.
What will the Administration do, faced with the utter collapse of their mandate to rule? The second term will become a salvage operation for the GOP strategists. Should Congress go Democrat and the President be forced from office, I don’t think we would see a repeat of the Ford succession. Instead, I think that the GOP would try to manipulate the selection to best effect. I feel sure that the GOP would avoid the mistake of resting their hopes for a pardon and their hopes of the Presidency in 2008 in a single vessel as was done with Ford. Instead, both the President and Vice-President would resign and the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert would become the GOP’s caretaker President (providing he is able to remain Speaker – the Speaker could well be a Democrat by then), whereupon he would pardon former Administration figures and decline to run himself. The GOP’s (i.e. Rove’s) succession plan to install McCain in 2008 would procede without placing their chosen inheritor under the onus of pardoning a bunch of war criminals.
If the Democrats control the House by the time Bush is ousted, Cheney would resign first and Bush would name his successor and resign himself. If the Democrats also control the Senate by that time, the confirmation of the new Vice-President could become a very contentious issue. The Democrats wouldn’t want to confirm anyone likely to issue blanket pardons and any number of surprising deals could result.
So when people want a reason to turn out and vote Democratic this year, remind them that a Democratic Congress will prevent the Administration from unilaterally aranging the Presidential succession when Bush throws the double victory signs and flies off into exile on Marine One.