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Even Some GOP Abandoning Bush's Sinking Ship

Reported by Judy - March 2, 2006

Some Republicans are fleeing George Bush's ship as he sinks lower in public esteem due to his insistence that an Arab country be allowed to operate six American ports. Meanwhile, others are looking for somebody to blame -- other than Bush himself -- for his troubles. All in all, Republicans on Fox News are finding themselves in some uncomfortable positions lately.

A pair of conservative talk radio hosts went after each other over the Dubai Ports World deal Tuesday (February 28, 2006) on "Your World with Neil Cavuto." During the same show, a quartet of business experts looked desperately for someone to blame for Bush's poll plight, and the next day, a Republican gingerly suggested some people in the White House ought to be looking for other work. It was all a sign of great unease among Republicans being forced to admit that Bush is in trouble. It's just a matter of whom to blame for it.

Talk show host Paul McGuire defended the port deal as having been vetted by 13 federal agencies and claimed opposition was mainly from Democrats like Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. He called the political storm over the deal a "blip" that would disappear within 30 days, allowing Bush's poll numbers to rebound.

Mark Williams, another talk show host, however, called the deal "the most bone-headed political move ever" and said Bush, rather than having coattails, is becoming an anchor around the necks of GOP candidates. Williams urged Bush to back off the deal so that he can advance his second-term agenda regarding tax cuts and energy independence "This isn't a little blip ... People are furious," he said.

The segment was interesting because of the spirit with which the two went at each other. Normally, Republicans follow the 11th commandment -- speak no ill of another Republican. That rule was out the window for this discussion.

Signs of unrest in the GOP also showed up in another segment on that day's show. Cavuto interviewed investment people about Bush's low poll numbers -- 34 percent approval rating in the latest CBS News poll -- and asked whether Bush is "just a horrible marketer" who has failed to tell the public all of the good things he has done.

Jill Schlesinger, of Strategicpoint Investment Advisers, chastised the Bush team for its marketing efforts. "Corporations are actually in the best shape they've been in in years and nobody's telling the public about it," she said, apparently not understanding that having good times for corporations does not automatically transfer into good times for workers, and that there still are more workers in this country than there are corporate owners.

Cavuto agreed that it was mainly a marketing problem, saying "They don't like to brag," referring to the Bush family in general.

Another guest, Scott Bleier, of hybridinvestors.com, blamed the press for Bush's low poll numbers. "The mainstream media has it so in for the president and the administration. Don't you know everything is George Bush's fault? If he rescued kittens from a burning building, he'd be a criminal. There is nothing he can do or say that the media isn't going to spin into something negative," he said.

Bleier's comment is totally off the mark, of course. If the press is always against Bush, why were Bush's numbers higher before than they are now? Shouldn't they be consistently bad? And certainly Bleier doesn't want to include Fox News as a news organization critical of the president, does he? Or Rush Limbaugh? And if the port deal is not Bush's fault, whose is it? The Democrats in Congress? Oh, I forgot, it was Bill Clinton's fault.

Later, Bleier said that the Bush administration was not articulating what good things it has been doing.

Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital, also took aim at the press. "You could have 99 percent employment and The New York Times would come out the next day and say, '1 percent of Americans are still unemployed,'" he said.

Rebecca Gomez, Fox News business correspondent, suggested that Bush simply may not be able to handle controversy the way former President Bill Clinton did.

The whole tone of the discussion was one of frustration and looking for some way to help Bush out of this jam.

On his show on Wednesday (March 1, 2006), Neil Cavuto intropduced Republican strategist Tery Holt with the comment that Holt "says it's high time the president start firing folks who have let him down."

"I'm not sure that I said that, Neil," protested Holt. "First of all, that's not how that was described to me. First of all, it's game time, we're in the mid-term election year. The party needs to look hard at itself ... and make some changes so we can get back on track." He claimed Bush is having to defend actions by some "nameless, faceless bureaucrats" who approved the port deal.

Cavuto persisted in asking who Bush should let go, and again Holt balked at answering directly, saying, "I feel like I've been put in a tough position here because I've never made any statements about specific individuals to fire. I responded to this interview request based on the fact that we were going to have a discussion about how you can get back on track and whether or not people should look at themselves and wonder whether they're doing a good enough job. I think it's a basic test. Are you serving the president or is he serving you. Are you riding his coattails or are you out there battling for him? "

It was just nice to see Republicans in disarray, to be all over the map with their talking points, and to squirm instead of smirk.

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