Bush told a room full of whooping Republican die-hards at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference: "We will face other challenges ahead that will require new energy and before long, new leadership. I'm absolutely confident, with your help we will elect a President who shares our principles. As we take on the challenges, we must be guided by the philosophy that has brought us success. Our policies are working. The American people support our points of view. They share our philosophy."
But outside that room, Bush's philosophy has been found wanting. For instance, while he specifically mentioned health care and education as areas where conservatives hold an advantage, a new poll out today shows that an overwhelming 68 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of those issues. Even among Republicans, his support is at an all-time low.
Alan Fram writes for the Associated Press: "It's almost as if people can barely stand the thought of President Bush and Congress anymore. Bush reached his lowest approval rating in The Associated Press-Ipsos poll on Friday as only 30 percent said they like the job he is doing. . . .
While the stuff Bush tossed to attendees at CPAC was the kind of thing they wanted to hear ("We believe our nation has the right to defend itself -- even if sometimes others disagree."), the fact remains that most of the American people simply want this Administration to end. They want someone to echo Gerald Ford's words after he was sworn in, having escorted former President Nixon to a helicopter on the south lawn of the White House, "Our long national nightmare is over." Of course, it would be nice if Bush's successor did not do what Ford did, and allow the various and sundry law-breakers escape the judgments of prosecutors. It would be so nice to see Cheney, Bush, Rice, Colin Powell, Alberto Gonzalez, and so many others in the dock (the first two preferably in The Hague, facing an international tribunal for war crimes; a person can dream, no?). The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they do grind.
In any event, between Froomkin's "professional" report and those from Sadly, No!, one gets the sense that CPAC holds the last dregs of Bush's historic approval ratings from the aftermath of the terror attacks on NY and Washington. Bush thinks he can help McCain by campaigning for him. Bush thinks he can help McCain by campaigning this way for him. All I can say is - go, George, go! Get out there on the stump and tie McCain even closer to you.
These folks at CPAC may love George W. Bush, his Presidency, his words, his policies, pretty much everything about the past seven years, but they are so wrapped up in their reverence for the Commander-in-Chief, they ignore the simple reality that America wants it all over with, done, kaput, finished. Should McCain take his campaign cue from CPAC, his loss will be even bigger than it is likely to be.