Just when it couldn't get worse…
The one thing the Bush administration and the Republicans have excelled in these past years is conquering the media heights -- air, print, and face time -- when it was crucial. In the last two weeks, with Iraq in near meltdown, American casualties soaring (32 dead in the first 9 days of October and figures on the wounded going sky-high), Iraqi police poisoned by the hundreds, assassinations the norm, and Shiites as well as Sunnis fighting with the U.S. military, the Foley scandal suddenly succeeded in sucking all the air out of the media environment. The President and Vice President continued to travel the country doing their normal dirt, but it was as if they had been silenced.
In the meantime, the Bush Bump in the polls, which barely lasted out September, looks to be turning back into a Bush freefall. (The newest Newsweek poll has presidential approval back at a dismal 33%.) In fact, as the mid-term elections approach, all poll figures are trending Democratic. For the first time in what seems decades, Americans find the Democrats more "trustworthy" than Republicans on everything, even "moral values" and "defense against terrorism" (so both the latest Washington Post poll and the Newsweek one tell us).
So just when the President and his Party seem sunk, who rides to the rescue? Kim Jong Il. Okay, okay, the Democrats are going to argue that a North Korean nuclear test is but more evidence that Bush's policies were a hopeless caricature of a catastrophe. But that may not matter. It's just the sort of argument that generally goes on the inside pages for the news (and political) junkies. What may matter most is that, for the first time in ten days, the Foley scandal is, however briefly, off the front pages and the President is front page and center being "presidential." The New York Times lead headline is: "Bush Rebukes North Korea." The Washington Post: "U.S. Urges Sanctions on North Korea."
Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza put it this way in the Post: "GOP officials are urging [Republican] lawmakers to focus exclusively on local issues and leave it to party leaders to mitigate the Foley controversy by accusing Democrats of trying to politicize it. At the same time, the White House plans to amplify national security issues, especially the threat of terrorism, after North Korea's reported nuclear test, in hopes of shifting the debate away from casualties and controversy during the final month of the campaign."
Strange isn't it how the Evil Ones have a way of riding to the rescue of the Bush administration. It's worth remembering that George W. Bush's presidency was languishing and he was under attack by worried members of his own party on September 10, 2001. And have we all forgotten the way Osama bin Laden providentially video just on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, providing Bush with a poster-boy-of-terror moment. Now, the unlovely Kim has exploded his mini-nuke. Maybe it won't prove "just in time," but you can't blame the Axis of Evil One for giving it the old Pyongyang U. try.