"Time for a change

A friend sent me an e-mail the other day suggesting I Google the word “failure” in order to see the first listing that came up in a field of 498,000,000. Guess what it was.

George W. Bush. The biography of the 43rd president of the United States.

Bush comes in ahead of a magazine called Failure, and Failure, “a loose confederation of cartoonists.” In a stroke of what might be considered poetic justice, Michael Moore, whose film Fahrenheit 911 was intended to stir public outrage and deny Bush a second term, is listed fourth. Not surprisingly, The Heart Failure Society of America comes next.

Anyone with a taste for collage is likely to find a rueful portrait of the way things are in this little sample. Lately it doesn’t seem a week passes without someone throwing another log on the public’s smoldering discontent with Mr. Bush. Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman and squinty-eyed MSNBC talking head, has started asking, “Is Bush an idiot?” on his show, Scarborough Country. Comparing Bush with other presidents, Scarborough, who, by the way, has never tried to portray himself as anybody’s version of an egghead, said, “I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don’t think he has the intellectual depth as these other people.”

Scarborough is the latest in a growing line of conservative bloviators who have wondered out loud about Bush’s judgment. Here’s what Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, told The Washington Post about right-wing reservations concerning Bush’s so-called strategy in Iraq: “There’s more of a sense now that things are on a downward trajectory, and more of a willingness to acknowledge it and pressure the administration to react to it.”

Interestingly enough, in April 2005 Lowry was writing, “It is time to say it unequivocally: Weare winning in Iraq.”

It didn’t take long for that worm to turn.

Quin Hillyer, executive editor of the American Spectator, has written that “we seem not to be winning” in Iraq, echoing gloomy pronouncements by George F. Will and William F. Buckley.

It’s beginning to look as if some people are getting the idea Bush might be on the wrong side of history. But it’s not just posterity that motivates these folks. It’s fear.

Last March, with little fanfare, a special commission was created in Washington, D.C., called the Iraq Study Group. It’s a bi-partisan task force co-chaired by the Bush family’s consigliere, James Baker, and Indiana’s man-about-the-Beltway, Lee Hamilton. Baker and Hamilton have recruited a group of 60 people to serve on this study group, including Sandra Day O’Connor, Edwin Meese, Vernon Jordan and Leon Panetta. According to an article in Washington Monthly magazine, the members of this group have been sworn to strict secrecy. It is known, however, that they have formed four “working groups” to study military and security issues, Iraqi politics, reconstruction and the regional and strategic environment surrounding the war.

James Baker, you will recall, was summoned from Texas to make sure things went Bush Jr.’s way in Florida following the 2000 election. Baker is considered a Republican “fixer,” which, in this case, may be another word for “grown-up.” The Iraq Study Group is nothing if not a group of elders who have belatedly been called together to try and clean up the mess that Bush and his neocon chums have made of things.

This effort is partly intended to salvage what’s left of this country’s shredded foreign policy. But Baker’s presence also suggests that this is about politics here at home. Trash-talking pundits are canaries in the coalmine as far as many Republicans are concerned. They know that unless Bush changes course in Iraq their party could take a hit in congressional elections this November. And if Democrats regain a majority in the House of Representatives, look out.

Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress for the past six years. This means they have controlled the agendas of committees responsible for investigating governmental wrong-doing and corruption. The Republican committee chairs have been as loyal to Mr. Bush as the Corleone boys were to their dad, Vito. They’ve sat on their hands. And so billions of dollars spent in Iraq are unaccounted for, the president has ignored laws that didn’t suit him and renounced international treaty obligations.

If the Democrats regain a majority in the House, investigations are expected. For example, John Conyers could be chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which means there will be serious talk about censuring Bush for failure — that word again — to enforce the laws of this country as required by his oath of office.

But that’s not all. The glimpses of deep-seated corruption we’ve gotten in the cases of Duke Cunningham and Jack Abramoff could turn into something like a steady gaze. We could be seeing a lot of tear-stained confessions and abrupt resignations in order to make up for lost time with previously neglected family members.

All of this, of course, depends on what happens this November. On whether we’re tired of the failure our government has become — or used to it.