Dear Mr. President:
It goes without saying that the last couple of years have been tough for you and the Republican Party. The GOP lost 6 Senate seats and 30 House seats; you’re currently sitting on an average approval rating of 36.3% and you haven’t cracked 50% all year. Moreover, 63% of the country thinks we’re going in the wrong direction while only 29% thinks the reverse is true.
Now, many people might say that there’s not a lot that you can do about that. They’re writing you off as a lame duck, as a spent force, as a man who’s going to be spending the next couple of years twiddling his thumbs and waiting for his replacement to appear. Maybe those people are right — but, they don’t have to be. The reality is that the American people WANT to like and respect the man leading them. Moreover, Republicans REALLY WANT to like and respect you, because you’re our guy. We want an excuse to point at you and say, "That’s my President and thank God he’s in the White House right now."
Moreover, Mr. President, you need to get the Republican people and the American people back on your side, if not for the sake of your agenda, for the sake of the troops fighting overseas who will be better off if they know that the American people support the mission they’ve been given by their commander in chief.
So, here are a few pieces of advice. Take them or leave them at your discretion.
- The first rule of politics is to take care of your base first and then reach out to the middle. Unfortunately, Mr. President, you’ve egregiously broken that rule and allowed an antagonistic relationship to develop between your administration and a significant part of your base. Simply by repairing that rift, you can get your approval rating back up into the mid-forties and perhaps just as importantly, you can staunch the biting criticism from the right that has done so much damage to your presidency. There are a number of ways you can shore up your right flank.
A) Announce that you support splitting the security measures and amnesty parts of the senate bill into two parts. Then say you want to support security, the wall, and tough enforcement measures now and that you want to deal with the guest worker program and other "comprehensive" features that many members of your base find so odious later. By doing this, you can take the venom out of the illegal immigration argument by not holding secure borders hostage to an amnesty program, and yet you can still say that you support the other features that some Hispanic activists, liberals, and big business want.
B) Let it be known that you think that one of the messages that the American public was sending in 2006 was that they were tired of runaway spending and as a consequence, make a point of vetoing every bill the Democrats send your way that’s full of earmarks or new big government programs. Sure, this has never been one of your strong points, but the Democrats are bigger spenders than you’ve ever been and by keeping them in check, you can earn credit with the base and the American people.
C) The new media can help you reconnect with your base. Sit down with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Fox News for interviews. They’ll be flattered that you got together with them and are likely to be particularly friendly. Moreover, you’ll be telling conservatives that, "Yes, I am still one of you and want to reach out to you," just by showing up and making the effort.
- Many of the American people feel like we’re treading water in Iraq. So, they’re lukewarm on continuing to risk the lives of our soldiers in an effort that they believe is just delaying the inevitable. In particular, there’s a distinct sense among conservatives that we’re fighting with one hand tied behind our back, that our soldiers are being strait-jacketed by ridiculous rules of engagement, and that we’re allowing Islamo-fascist thugs in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia along with Sadr’s militia to take potshots at our troops with impunity. Moreover, Americans are looking at North Korea’s nuclear weapons, Iran building nuclear weapons, Hezbollah engineering a takeover of Lebanon, and the response of the United States has been….what exactly?
In 2004, Americans thought they were voting for the guy who stood on top of a pile of rubble at the World Trade Center with a bullhorn and said, "I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!" What happened to that guy? What happened to the guy who said, "Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." What happened to the guy whom the Europeans kept calling a "cowboy?" Where has that guy been since the election in 2004? The American people need to be shown that you’re still engaged, that you’re still determined to "bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies," and that you’re still hellbent on doing whatever it takes to win the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism.
- The GOP has gotten in trouble on the domestic front for being "democrat light" on issues like spending, illegal immigration, and big government programs. So, when the Democrats take over, don’t hesitate to use your veto power and the soapbox that the presidency gives you when they veer off to the left. Draw some real distinctions between what we Republicans believe and what the Democrats believe.
Also, please, please, Mr. President, start defending yourself. When prominent Democrats accuse you of lying to America, torturing prisoners, or screwing the middle-class, tear a chunk out of them every once in a while instead of letting them get away with slapping you around. Americans tend not to like extreme attacks on their President, but if they hear them day in and day out and you never respond, they start to get the idea that maybe you’re staying quiet because what they’re saying is true. Don’t let that continue to happen, Mr. President.
Last but not least, Mr. President, you’ve got two more years in office. Please don’t let them go to waste the way the last two years have. Heal your rift with the base, get aggressive in the war on terror again, and use your veto power along with the bully pulpit at every opportunity. If you do those things, then you can still make a bigger impact than most people think before you head back to Crawford for retirement.