"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

GOP: Down, But Not Out

We’re hearing the word schadenfreude
a lot these days, which for anyone who may not know, means “a malicious satisfaction in the misfortune of others”. It comes from the German words for damage, Schaden, plus Freude, or joy, and is applied most often to Democrats who are delighting in the glorious self-destruction in and around the Bush camp. It's not nice to kick someone when they're down, but awfully hard to resist when they deserve it so much. Between the administration’s dismal handling of Katrina, increasing public dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Iraq, the DeLay and Frist affairs, and other assorted misadventures, the White House is by all accounts not an especially happy place right now. Bush’s approval ratings are at their lowest point in history, and a lot of folks who voted for, um, you know, the other guy in 2004 – whassisname? – are crowing “I told you so”. However, the vultures may be circling a bit prematurely. I am not a big fan of #43, to put it mildly, but neither am I gloating at his misfortune. I get no joy out of watching our great country deteriorate right before my very eyes. If you study the polls, you find that a decrease in satisfaction with Bush’s job performance does not equate to an increase in affection for his rivals. If there was a clear and viable alternative it might be a different story, but who ya gonna call … Hillary? John Dean? Joe Lieberman? The Democratic choices don’t inspire, and the lineup hasn't changed significantly since last November. Then, they had every right to take their best shot at an incompetent incumbent, and the best they could do was John Kerry. No doubt Bush’s dirty-tricks campaign helped sour Kerry with the voters, but it was hard for most folks to work up any real enthusiasm for the man even in his best light. Had anyone possessing true leadership, coupled with a JFK-esqe charisma and vision run against him last year, Dubya would have been sent packing back to Crawford with his tail between his legs. You’ll note that he’s still in Washington, still very much in power, and still cracking that smug frat-boy smirk at us every chance he gets. Also keep in mind that an animal is most dangerous when it's wounded. Bush knows how to play political hardball, and this lame duck can still bite. No matter who the Republicans nominate as his potential successor three years from now, unless the Democrats come up with a truly magnificent challenger it's going to be business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So while it's tempting, keep a lid on the schadenfreude for now. Maybe if we’re all very lucky, it will come in handy in 2008.

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