...The Republicans Fall Apart
By Brad Friedman on 5/20/2004, 2:25pm PT  

You know things are turning ugly for Republicans when they drop their usually unshakable lock-step support and start turning on each other --- and in the middle of an Election Year none the less! That seems to be happening with ever increasing momentum in Conservative/Republican circles now as Bush's re-elect support plummets to near Jimmy Carter-like numbers.

Last week I blogged about the ultra-con New Republic turning hard against Bush in "With Friends Like These...Who needs Democrats?" Two days later more evidence emerged as stalwart Conservatives George Will and then Richard Rahn in The Washington Times were also turning against Bush as blogged in "The Bottom Continues to Drop".

Now the dominos are tumbling as the outlook from Iraq to the Re-Elect effort is looking bleeker and bleeker.

Today, Conservative Prince of Darkness, Bob Novak reports on the "nearly one out of five Republicans [who] cannot flatly say they support Bush, [which] could spell defeat in a closely contested election.":

During George W. Bush's keynote address to the 40th anniversary black-tie banquet of the American Conservative Union (ACU) last week...one man kept his seat through the 40-minute oration. It was no liberal interloper but conservative stalwart Donald Devine.
As ACU vice chairman, Devine was privileged to be part of a pre-dinner head-table reception with President Bush. However, Devine chose not to shake hands with the president. Furthermore, he is one of about 20 percent of Republicans that polls classify as not committed to voting for Bush's re-election.
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Why would Devine stay seated at the ACU dinner when everybody else was standing and clapping? To begin with, he shares concern with many Republicans about what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and where it is going. Businessmen I have talked to recently exercise limited patience in how long they will tolerate the bloodshed and confusion.

What most bothers Devine and other conservatives is steady growth of government under this Republican president....he feels betrayed that Bush has outstripped his liberal predecessors in domestic spending.

But it's not just the commentators and would-be Bush "supporters" now turning on him. Republican Legislators are also getting into the act.

House Republicans are turning on Senate Republicans as seen in this dust-up between House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senator John McCain reported today by AP:

McCain, who spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison, excoriated fellow Republicans on Tuesday for pushing more tax cuts while U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice. ... What have we sacrificed?" McCain said. "As mind-boggling as expanding Medicare has been, nothing tops my confusion for cutting taxes during wartime. I don't remember ever in the history of warfare when we cut taxes."

Asked Wednesday about McCain's remarks, Hastert, who was rejected for military service because of a bad shoulder...said "If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda (two Washington area military hospitals). There's the sacrifice in this country."...

McCain stood fast in his reply to Hastert.

"The speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops," he said. "All we're called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility."

For his part, Bush himself is turning inward to find someone else to blame for the mess he's in. As reported by AFP, he may be finally realizing how they've been played from Day One by Ahmad Chalabi (the one man they hung their WMD case against Saddam, who assured our gullible Commander-in-Chief that we'd be greeted as liberators with candy and flowers and who they expected would be the next Iraqi President).

Two days ago, they finally wised-up and cut off Chalabi's $340,000 monthly stipend, and last night, apparently, they even invaded his house in an overnight raid in Baghdad:

"My relationship with the CPA now is non-existent...I am America's best friend in Iraq; if the CPA finds it necessary to direct an armed attack against my home you can see the state of relations between the CPA and the Iraqi people."

The former Pentagon favourite also called on US President George W. Bush to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people without delay.

"My message to the CPA is let my people go, let my people be free. We are grateful to President Bush for liberating Iraq but it is time for the Iraqi people to run their affairs," he told a press conference.

Intra-Partisan wrangling is not all that uncommon when a President is in full command of his power. During Clinton it was the Liberals versus the Moderates in the Democratic Party for example. But this is an Election Year, when Republicans traditionally close ranks behind their man. They seem now to be doing the very opposite, begging the question; Does George W. Bush have any real friends left?

The mounting evidence would indicate otherwise, as his "friends" are looking more and more every day like rats from a sinking ship of state.