President Bush told the press yesterday, "People don't need to worry about security."
Bill Maher returned to HBO last week, and during the premier show Dan Senor described President Bush as a "rebel." Maher's Los Angeles audience broke into laughter, but Senor is absolutely right. We're accustomed to presidents whose eyes are glued to their approval ratings, and President Bush simply doesn't seem to care.
You'd think the Harriet Miers trainwreck would have humbled his administration, reminded them that they're only one-third of our government and not a private entity. But we're talking about a group of people responsible for the fact that, for the first time in a half-century, the 2008 presidential election will proceed without an incumbent's advantage.
I've never understood that decision. Maybe Dick Cheney's a smart man and maybe his advice is valued by the president, but why not hire him as a senior advisor? For that matter, why hire him at all? He doesn't need the money, and there's no rule that says the president can't invite his friends into the Oval Office for advice. (See Karen Hughes.)
The vice president has three constitutional responsibilities: To break a tie in the US Senate, to preside over the counting of electoral votes, and to replace the president if necessary. It's hardly a vital or even powerful office. In practical terms, its primary function is to establish a presidential candidate for the incumbent party four years hence. Obviously, Dick Cheney will never run for president, so keeping him on the ticket denies an advantage to the Republican Party in 2008.
I can't figure out who it helps, or how. And consequently, I don't see a Republican president. I see a group of people who have manipulated the Republican party for the benefit of their own private fraternity.
I'm not surprised that President Bush would sign a deal allowing an Arab company to control six ports. We seem to have a tradition of lame-duck presidents selling their loyalty to foreign interests, and Bush's family has always been too close to Arab leaders. Frankly, it doesn't bother me much; we have military ties to the UAE, and the power brokers care less about ideology than profit and they have every reason to ensure their investment. Moreover, foreign management of port terminals is commonplace worldwide.
But obviously, these are special circumstances. This deal looks wrong, and the man who told us that Iraq had the bomb is assuring us that we can trust him. And after warning Americans to be alert, to involve themselves in national security and to report anything amiss, President Bush now says, "People don't need to worry about security."
At this moment, I see three likely contenders for the Republican nomination in two years: Mitt Romney, Condoleeza Rice, and Jeb Bush. I'd vote for Romney — hell, I'd campaign for Romney. But either of the latter two would result in the same group of people running our country for another four years. And given their stunning lack of judgment in matters of security, diplomacy, and even professional politics, I have to confess: I'm strongly considering voting for Hillary.