Some Bush huggers of my acquaintance think it's positively awful what those dratted liberals and confounded Democrats are saying about their president. But I'm hearing even stronger stuff from some bona-fide longtime Republican bleeders for their cause. I detect a still fairly modest slippage among these normally diehard GOP stalwarts that could tilt another likely razor-thin election the other way, change the leadership of this divided nation, and send the incumbent president back full-time to Crawford, Texas.
Let me cite several examples:
At a college alumni dinner in conservative Cincinnati last week, the Rev. Robert W. Croskery, who guides the Pilgrim Chapel in Mount Adams, delivered this moving invocation, which he called "an Irish Blessing":
Let peace descend upon the cities and hamlets of the earth
As the mists of the morning cover the cornfields.
Let the bombs, guns and munitions be retired and locked away.
Let the peoples abandon violence with its death, destruction, fear and hate.
Let there be partnership, harmony and cooperation in the United States, the Middle East and throughout all the earth.
Let human energy proliferate in the progress of science, the expansion of learning, the growth of wisdom, and the flowering of faith.
May hope hold the hearts of the peoples of the earth, map liberty and justice and brotherhood bind in one mighty accord and bond of mutual respect the races and religions of humankind and may the light and truth of America's greatest universities lead the way.
At evening's end, I went to tell Rev. Croskery I was inspired by his words. He volunteered that he was a longtime Republican utterly turned off by the actions of President Bush and the national administration, which he sees as mostly contrary to his "blessings."
"Bush got us into a pointless war and hasn't the vaguest idea of how to get us out with honor," he said. "Iraq is in a shambles, and the cost to rebuild it will be vast. Meanwhile, Americans in need right here are being ignored and shortchanged. I cannot vote Republican in this presidential election."
I chanced recently to read a potent oped column in USA Today by James Webb, who served as secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. Webb was a combat veteran in Vietnam, and I remember him as a dedicated conservative Republican activist. His column was titled "Veterans face conundrum: Kerry or Bush?" and this is some of what he wrote:
"The Bush campaign now claims ... that Bush has proved himself as a competent and daring 'war president,' And yet his actions in Iraq, and the vicious attacks against anyone who disagrees with his administration's logic, give many veterans serious pause. Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that has never known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence."
Can you imagine Secretary Webb voting for Bush or touting him to friends and acquaintances?
Completely out of the blue, I received a phone call the other evening from a long-ago Republican friend who'd helped me greatly years ago win election as president of the Illinois Young Republicans. He'd learned from a mutual friend that I am now living in my hometown of Hamilton, Ohio, and he got my phone number from directory assistance. "I don't know where you stand these days, Bill," he said, "but Bush and the crowd around him make me sick and aren't even real Republicans. I remember when Republicans were genuine guardians of tax dollars, but these guys spend our money like creek water. The huge tax cuts, especially for the very rich, with a war going on make no sense at all. They're cutting back environment protection, and fouling the air again. You knew (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld, didn't you? Well, he and Cheney are strictly for war. They want to work our will by brute force. That's why the whole world hates us."
My old friend went on and made it clear Sen. Kerry will get his vote in November.
None of the above is scientific. These are merely random vignettes. But how these three formerly staunch Republicans are talking and thinking ought to strike fear into the hearts of the White House brain trust and the president himself.
Bill Rentschler is a longtime author and former Republican US Senate candidate in Illinois, now semi-retired in Hamilton, Ohio. This originally appeared in the Hamilton Journal-News.