GOP: in the driver's seat but not steering


Politically speaking, the guy can't get no respect. Even though President Bush is on a very acceptable–even popular–side of the immigration issue (i.e., supporting a guest-worker program), he doesn't get any credit for it: According to a CBS News poll released yesterday, 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of immigration. So, not only does the president not get any credit, but he is also suffering within the ranks of his own party. The same CBS poll shows that only 42 percent of Republicans approve of how the president is handling immigration, and as many as 41 percent disapprove.

So it's basically at this point: Bush is now so low in the polls–at 37 or 38 percent–that Republicans have clearly moved beyond him. Even worse, it's considered a good thing to bash the president, because he's so unpopular back home. For the first time last week, I saw that Republicans were getting genuinely concerned about losing control of the House, and with good reason: Not only is Bush unpopular, but congressional approval is at a measly 27 percent–and Republicans run the place.

That is precisely the problem. If Congress returns and does nothing on immigration–which, arguably, is a political position the Democrats prefer so they can have the issue in the fall–Republicans will catch the heat. And House Republicans haven't been able to agree on a budget, either. When you ask the public whether this Congress is accomplishing anything, 67 percent say it's accomplishing less than usual. And guess who's in charge?

Therein lies the problem for Republicans: They can cry all they want about Democratic obstructionists, but it won't stick. They are in charge, and the public knows it. And if hundreds of thousands of protesters continue to march in the streets about immigration–and Congress does nothing–the Republicans will catch the blame. Which is about the last thing any of them needs.