In recent weeks, the President has moved decisively to fulfill that promise. Consider this screenshot of the president's approval rating since the beginning of the Iraq occupation (from the Washington Post).
"Responsible leadership sets a tone of civility and bipartisanship that gets things done. I am a uniter, not a divider and, as the governor of Texas, that is how I have led. It is how I will lead in the White House."
Now some would think that 65% of country (as high as 71% in some polls), joined shoulder to shoulder, arms locked in solidarity disapproving of how the president is doing his job qualifies as uniting the country. While this may be close enough for some, it is not enough for this President. He understands that the remaining ~30% of his support is comprised of hard core loyalists that fully intend to stand with him through thick and thin. With only 18 months left in his presidency, he realizes he must act decisively if he is going to truly be a "uniter". He recently launched a three prong "shock and awe" attack on the Republican base: First standing by his discredited Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; Second, aggressively attacking Republican opponents of the immigration bill; Third, leaving loyalist Scooter Libby twisting slowly in the wind, knowing that Libby's only crime was to perjure himself to protect Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Is it working? Can he really unite this country? Only time will tell. The next few polls will be critical. But there are indications in both the main stream media and the blogosphere that his efforts are bearing fruit.
Long time supporter Peggy Noonan at the WSJ thinks it is all just "Too Bad":
At RedState Bluey complains that "President Bush Contines to Antagonize Us":
"The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism." Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement."
Jaded and Kyle chime in:
"Conservatives who are already frustrated with President Bush should be even more upset with him after seeing his remarks in recent days. Yesterday, he antagonized us by boasting, "I'll see you at the bill signing." Just as Bush had angered the base by telling us that we "don’t want to do what’s right for America," he once again put his foot in his mouth with this latest quip. "
NeoCon William Kristol at The Weekly Standard asks whether George Bush is evading his repsonsiblility in "Who Me?":
"I am consistantly amazed at the bravado of this President, he is truly tone deaf, he cannot hear us because he is insulated with nothing but yes men telling him what he wants to hear. I thought that the un-American comment was the straw that broke the camel's back for me however his snotty smug self saying "I'll see you at the bill signing" was the height of arrogance, he should be ashamed of himself I know I am ashamed of him. I knew that politics was brutal I am not a young person but I never thought I would feel as disheartened as I feel today. This President has taken every good feeling I ever had for him and has replaced it with disgust. I believe his legacy will be as the President who broke his party into two."
"You know what is even more galling? The fact that I defended him for years from liberals who said EXACTLY the same things you are saying, but I could not see it then and just thought they were being partisan. The truth is that they were substantially correct. That really makes me feel stupid."
Ace at Ace of Spades HQ has a very direct answer:
"So much for loyalty, or decency, or courage. For President Bush, loyalty is apparently a one-way street; decency is something he's for as long as he doesn't have to take any risks in its behalf; and courage--well, that's nowhere to be seen. Many of us used to respect President Bush. Can one respect him still?"
"Hey, President Bush? F**k off. You are going down in history in a neck-and-neck battle with Jimmy Carter as worst president of the twentieth century. And you know what? You are, pretty much, a f*****ng moron. All that time we've razzed the left about claiming that? Oh, you're not diagnosably retarded or anything, but you're a F*****ng dim bulb, and you've got some nerve of accusing opponents of the amnesty bill (which you surely haven't even read, genius) of not being smart enough to support it... Message To The Left: I'm not saying you should impeach him, I'm just sayin', you know, go with your hearts."
UPDATE:Yes, it looks like the President's bold gambit just might work. But can he pull this off in time? I've extrapolated the trend line from the graphic above to illustrate just how close this is going to be.
Hat tip to Militant Skeptic at the Angry Blog for pointing us to Brad Delong's "Pecking Order for Honest Conservatives", offering another window for tracking the decline and fall of support for this administration through the defection of conservative celebrities. DWSUWF followed Niskannen in the class of 2003 throwing away the adminsitration kool-aid, in favor of a tall cool glass of divided government.
Meanwhile, Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice reports on a new poll that reinforces that the Republican support continues to drain away.
It will go down to the wire, but I for one have confidence in the President. With this latest initiative he is likely to drive his approval rating back below the trend line, and put us firmly on a course to finally unite the country, with 95% - 99% of us disapproving of the job he has done as President when he triumphantly hands over the reigns in January, 2009. Thank you President Bush for fulfilling your promise. Thank you for bringing us together with a truly bipartisan purpose. Thank you for uniting our country again.