Bush Faces the People: The Day of Reckoning Looms for George W Bush. on 7 November, Americans Will Flock to the Polls for the Midterm Elections and Deliver Their Verdict on His Record. Many Now View Him as One of the Worst Presidents in History
Stephen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)
We can now, at last, sleep soundly in our beds at night. With Tony Blair safely back from Sir Cliff's "villa" in Barbados, I can report that George W Bush returned to the Oval Office after the Labor Day weekend with his body and mind refreshed. Physically, he was rejuvenated by cycling in the woods and then speed-boating off the Kennebunkport coast with his dad on the family boat Fidelity III; intellectually, he has been brushing up his French existentialism and Shakespeare, adding to the 60 or so books he has already read this year and the three biographies of George Washington alone he devoured last year.
Lest you think I am fleeing into the realms of whimsy and fantasy to block out the realities of Bush returning to office after the summer to continue a presidency that will last until 2009, it is not I doing so. This is all from the lips of Bush himself and the White House. The latter says that Bush has read between 53 and 60 books already in 2006, and in an interview with NBC just a few days ago Bush himself said: "I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read, and Laura said, 'You oughta try Camus.' I also read three Shakespeares." Hamlet, the White House later added helpfully, was one of the three Shakespeares.
Yet this surrealist nonsense will not let Bush avoid a looming date on his calendar: 7 November. That day, Americans will flock to the polls in record numbers for the midterm elections--and deliver possibly their definitive referendum on Bush and his presidency. For his entire time in office, Bush has enjoyed the luxury of having both a House and Senate that are Republican-controlled; now he faces the possibility of at least one of them returning to the Democrats, as well as a personal humiliation that would strengthen my edict that before long, Americans will see Bush as second only to Warren Harding (1865-1923) as the worst US president in history.
First, though, one of my famed briefs on American politics--or primers, as Americans say. In the elections that come exactly halfway through each presidential term, all 435 House of Representatives seats, 33 of the 100 Senate seats, and 36 governorships come up for re-election--as well as a host of local positions, going down to the post of dog-catcher in some municipalities. In the Senate, there are currently 45 Democrats and 55 Republicans, and in the House 202 Democrat and 232 Republican seats (plus one Independent); this year the Democrats are defending 18 seats and the Republicans 15 in the Senate, and the Democrats hold 14 of the governorships up for re-election compared with the Republicans' 22.
This is why Bush is already frantically engaged in a spree of 20 speeches centred around the fifth anniversary of the 11 September atrocities, which will culminate in a 19 September address to the UN General Assembly. He is resorting to the familiar tactic dreamt up by Karl Rove that has worked so magically for him since 2001: that he and the Republicans are tough guys when it comes to terrorism, while the Democrats are defeatist wimps. Now he is saying they would even cut the military budget for Iraq if they regain control of Congress--thus leaving American soldiers ill-equipped to win and fight the all-important domestic war against terrorism.
Just a pre-election capture of Osama Bin Laden or a foiled terrorist plot could suddenly push up the Republicans' ratings. Bush's personal ratings actually went up when last month's alleged terrorist plot against planes flying from Britain became hot news here as well as in the UK. Senate and House seats, in any case, are gerrymandered in such a way that far fewer change hands than would happen in Britain even in the event of a seismic political shift: the Democrats need just 15 seats to take the House, but the most recent polls say they are ahead in only 14.
They need just six Senate wins, too, but that is even more iffy. …