Forget my previous allusions to Jimmy Carter. It looks more like Bush is getting into LBJ's "If nominated, I will not run, if elected, I will not serve" territory at this point.
Yes, six months is still a long way away --- especially as news cycles fly these days (remember, it was just six months ago Bush's popularlity briefly soared at the capture of Saddam back in December, '03) --- but with numbers like these (41% job approval, 34% Iraq approval, 37% foreign policy, 36% economy, 30% "right track") and a myriad of pundits, politicians and partisans (on both sides) now comparing the Bush Presidency to Nixon, Carter, Bush 41 or Johnson, it may now be a good idea for Bush, as Carl Berstein suggests, to take one for the team:
The...question is whether Republicans will, Pavlov-like, continue to defend their president with ideological and partisan reflex, or remember the example of principled predecessors who pursued truth at another dark moment.
Today, the issue may not be high crimes and misdemeanors, but rather Bush's failure, or inability, to lead competently and honestly.
"You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror," Bush told Rumsfeld in a Wizard-of-Oz moment May 10, as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and senior generals looked on. "You are a strong secretary of Defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude." The scene recalled another Oz moment: Nixon praising his enablers, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as "two of the finest public servants I've ever known."
It was Barry Goldwater, the revered conservative, who convinced Nixon that he must resign or face certain conviction by the Senate and perhaps jail. Goldwater delivered his message in person, at the White House, accompanied by Republican congressional leaders.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee likewise put principle above party to cast votes for articles of impeachment. On the eve of his mission, Goldwater told his wife that it might cost him his Senate seat on Election Day. Instead, the courage of Republicans willing to dissociate their party from Nixon helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency six years later, unencumbered by Watergate.
Another precedent is apt: In 1968, a few Democratic senators J. William Fulbright, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Robert F. Kennedy challenged their party's torpor and insisted that President Lyndon Johnson be held accountable for his disastrous and disingenuous conduct of the Vietnam War, adding weight to public pressure, which, eventually, forced Johnson not to seek re-election.
Much to think about for the Right.
While Bush's numbers continue to sink, Kerry's are still soft-ish. True, the country hasn't yet seen Kerry's stuff, and seems to mostly be basing their opinions of him on the Bush-Cheney / Republican Echo Chamber spin job being rather effectively and expensively played out now. But negative advertising and propoganda can only go so far. It can keep Kerry numbers down if it continues to work, but at this rate, even Kerry's low numbers beat Bush's. Add to that "undecideds" generally fall to the challenger as well.
Presumably Bush feels the country is better off with Republicans in charge than with Democrats. So if it begins to look like Dubya on the ticket might mean the loss of the Whitehouse, the Senate, and --- at this rate --- possibly even the House (though he can thank Tom DeLay's re-districting chicanery for almost assuring the House stays Republican) will Dubya really prove to care enough about his country to step aside in favor of someone who might be able to close the deal against a so far soft-ish Democratic Challenger and keep the "power" for the Republicans?
We know he loves his country, right? Does he love it more than he loves his own power?
To pick up Bernstein's Oz theme, I'll add this..."People sure do come and go quickly around here...I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore..."
Guilliani/McCain ticket anyone? Stay tuned.