President George W. Bush's lingering slide in public approval appears to have leveled off. Probably he has absorbed most of the damage from high unemployment, thornier-than-expected Iraqi war fallout and a general lack of political and policy focus.
That puts the president's political survival in his own hands, and he should take this opportunity to use those hands for a little heavy lifting. A good place to start would be inside his own shop. He should pick up a stout broom and start sweeping out the sniveling weasels who look upon issues of national security as if they were so many petty political rumors to be spread like confetti at some local Republican convention.
The recent leak of a CIA officer's identity was a silly and gratuitous act of inside baseball that accomplished nothing for the White House. It also put Robert Novak, a well-respected journalist, in the uncomfortable position of having to resist calls to reveal his sources. President Bush is above this sort of nonsense. If his organization is peopled by anyone with the mindset of a Richard Nixon minion, they should be shown the door before their boss's re-election campaign begins in earnest. And it should be the president himself who tells them to hit the road.
After he gets his hands around these lingering personnel issues, Bush should then train his grip on a few issues that appeal to voters conservative, liberal and everything in between. Here's one: How much longer is the federal government going to provide tax breaks and other incentives to large corporations, only to have them turn around and kick the teeth of the U.S. economy by exporting jobs to countries such as India? It's become a not-well-kept-secret that U.S. service jobs -- especially those that can be performed over phone lines or Internet connections -- are making their way overseas. That's particularly troubling when one considers that we have already ceded to developing nations the United States' standing as a manufacturing giant.
Here's another basic policy suggestion for the White House: How about a personal presidential effort to stem the wildly unrealistic spending spree now running rampant on Capitol Hill? The nation could sure make do with a set, dollar limit on how much we're going to spend to rebuild Iraq. Moreover, we also need further circumspection in the spending of money that now appears more intended to sway voters than to solve major policy problems.