The headline from page A3 of today's issue of The Washington Post says it all: "Port Deal's Political Fallout Not Over".
President Bush believed that he could get away with selling off control of America's vital infrastructure by callin his opponents racists but the American people just aren't buying it. According to polling released on Tuesday by Rasmussen Reports, more Americans continue to trust the Democrats in Congress on issues of national security than they do the President, by a 41 percent to 40 margin. True, this lead for Congressional Dems is statistically insignificant, but that is no matter; the fact that the Democrats are even competitive on the issue of protecting America is a testament to the monumental shift going on in this country as a result of many factors, including the botched war in Iraq, the embarassing response to Hurricane Katrina and the sale of operational rights to key U.S. ports to a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates.
Simply put, a lot of Americans don't trust President Bush to protect the American homeland anymore. Alan Abramowitz summed up the President's problem well in a column for last Sunday's issue of The Post.
The problem for President Bush is a growing perception that he simply isn't competent. That's the story behind the polling numbers that have declined -- bad week by bad week -- since February 2005 when the president's approval rating stood at a respectable 52 percent.
The predecessor whom Bush has begun to resemble isn't, as many liberal Democrats seem to believe, Richard Nixon. It's Jimmy Carter. Carter's political demise began when the American people, including many Democrats, started to perceive him as in over his head in the Oval Office. That's what may be happening now to Bush.
Competence is not a partisan issue. Last week's polls found that somewhere between 34 and 40 percent of Americans approved of Bush's job performance. That is discouraging enough. But for Bush and his political advisers what may be more disturbing is the fact that his approval rating among Republicans had fallen to 72 percent, 10 to 15 percentage points lower than the president's previous level of support from his party's voters. It's a sign that even supporters are beginning to question Bush's effectiveness.
The problem for the George W. Bush is not just a result of the ports issue, though the U.A.E. deal did help reinforce Americans' concerns about his presidency. (Note, though, that a new governmental study raises even more questions about American port security.) And the problem is not only about national and homeland security, either. From the underfunded No Child Left Behind law to the horribly designed and poorly implemented Medicare prescription drug program, the Bush administration has proved time and time again that it is unable to govern in an effective or efficient manner. Still, this is not all of it.
An increasing and shocking number of Bush appointees and aides are being indicted and arrested for activities undertaken during their tenure in the administration. In October, Tom DeLay spoke of "the criminalization of conservative politics." Indeed! Whether it's top procurement official David Safavian, who was indicted for lying about his relationship with Jack Abramoff; Scooter Libby, who was indicted for lying about his role in the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame; or Claude Allen, who has been arrested on felony charges, there are simply a lot of top Bush administration aides who have real legal problems these days. The pictures of the President with Jack Abramoff certainly don't help administration counterspin that George W. Bush and his party have not tainted the White House.
With so much evidence to the contrary, is George W. Bush really up to the job? Can he fully handle the responsibilities of the presidency? As more and more Americans raise these questions, the only possible response is to tell Washington that it's time to restore a little balance and give the President some help in governing this country by electing a Democratic Congress in November.