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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

Republican Party Shock-and-Awed by George Bush

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The discourse on nukes is no longer whether Iran can develop a weapon, but gratitude that the Republican Party doesn't appear to have one. The G.O.P. has become the political equivalent of Three Mile Island. The party's meltdown has become so serious that RNC staffers are now ordered to wear protective Hazmat gear. You half-expect the CIA to send in Joseph Wilson to determine if Republicans have yellowcake. We're almost at the point where a national emergency should be declared.

Newsweek magazine has released its latest poll, and George Bush's approval rating has now plummeted to 28%. On the positive side, this is an impressive number if you're playing golf.

Looking for even better news, the Republican National Committee has released the figures in base 4, proudly trumpeting that the president's approval is a stratospheric 130%. (Dick Cheney's approval is an even more impressive 11,001%, although that's base 2.)

And so the magical 30-percent line has not only been solidly breached, it's dropped below the 29% nadir of Papa Bush, giving son the bragging rights he's clearly ached for even before Mission Accomplished. And it's only the beginning, because between the Iraq Surge, Gonzales investigations, missing emails, the General Counsel looking into Karl Rove, and whatever the next scandals are, the news will likely only get worse. The sky's the limit. Or rather, the bottom. Unfortunately for the president's aspirations to crush his father's record, he can only drop to zero. Godspeed!

(How bad are these Presidential Bushes? Put those two approvals together, and you still barely break 50%.)

Also notable in the Newsweek poll is that the top three Democrats beat all Republican candidates (with Obama and Edwards doing best). To be clear, this means utterly nothing, though there's one noteworthy aspect of this: just a few months ago, to the applause of Republican pundits, both John McCain and Rudy Guiliani beat all Democrats. The silence you now hear is that of one hand clapping.

(And what do the Republicans do to stop the hemorrhaging? They send out Dick Cheney. That's like punching someone in the head to remind him why his head hurts. Democrats are currently taking up a collection to provide the vice president a luxury plane for free.)

But most pointed of all in the Newsweek article is its headline - because it directly addresses the problem Republicans face. "The Elephant in the Room."

And that ultimately is where G.O.P. problems will intensify. That's the crevice Republicans have dug for themselves while leaving the rescue equipment outside. Democrats never have a problem attacking their own; it's their lifeblood. Republicans however are wired in a way where they must play Follow the Leader, and self-criticism is impossible.

As a result, Republicans no longer refer to Mr. Bush by name. Just look at what happened at the GOP debate: imagine, a sitting president who is mentioned only once by his own party. This is the Ostrich Theory of politics. Republicans think that ignoring George Bush (there, I'll mention his name for them) will avoid the problem, but the reality is that everyone knows who's president. And we all know the Democrats WILL mention George W. Bush.

Repeatedly.

Regularly.

Republicans will therefore be required to face a losing decision: bury their heads in the sand and put up no defense, or be forced to finally defend President George W. Bush, either by name or agenda. Because those are the only two choices remaining: neglect or support. Supporting a 28% approval isn't an option (this assumes, of course, that winning is the goal). And pretending your party leader, the president, doesn't exist is a fool's errand.

In the end, you can only separate yourself from someone if you explain why you disagree and are different. And as long as they refuse to mention Republican President George W. Bush, they won't be able to do that. Worse, they are on record as supporting the Surge, the programs and the Administration of Republican President George Walker Bush, so ignoring him is moot.

There are various morals to this, something the "Party of Morals" (sic) must surely appreciate. You sleep in the bed you made. You dance with who brought you. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. We must all take personal responsibility. And Republicans have been waving their sword so high and for so long, waltzing in circles so endlessly, and so-deeply falling asleep in the snuggly arms of the Republican President George Walker Bush 43 that the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl looks peaceful and beatific by comparison, and they have no one to blame but themselves.