Purdue News

November 2, 2005

Presidential scholar: President sings second-term blues

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –The recent indictment of a top White House aide is feeding President George W. Bush's second-term blues that many recent re-elected presidents face, but the long-term implications are still unclear, says a Purdue University presidential expert.

"Every administration experiences some kind of scandal, just different kinds," says Bert A. Rockman, professor of political science and co-editor of and contributor to a series of books evaluating the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

For example, Clinton's scandal involving a relationship with a White House intern was personal. Former President Ronald Reagan had to deal with the Iran-Contra hearings about an illicit money-laundering scheme to supply arms to rebels in Nicaragua.

"What's happening now with the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, is being compared to Watergate because of the possible involvement of other government officials," Rockman says. "Could the reasons for leaking a CIA covert agent's name to the media be similar to the Nixon administration covering up the Watergate break-in? Is there an effort, in other words, to undermine opposition to administration policies through the use of illegal methods? We don't know yet."

But that is just one take on the bad news the current presidential administration is facing, Rockman says.

"In Bush's case, issues include the current Supreme Court nomination and the war in Iraq," Rockman says. "Staying in Iraq imposes continuing costs on our military, our soldiers and Bush's own standing, but a military withdrawal from Iraq potentially threatens American security. Terrorism lives where there is weakness of government authority, and we've created a situation now where if America pulls out, terrorists will have another base from which to operate. On the other hand, staying will be an issue because of a shortage of military personnel, funding and declining political support."

The way the indictment and Iraq war play out may do much to influence the 2008 election and shape the next job description for the presidency.

"If Bush is able to quickly recover, then the next question is whether the president has any real shot of achieving his original second-term agenda, such as privatizing Social Security," Rockman says.

Rockman co-edited and contributed to "The George W. Bush Presidency: Appraisals and Prospects" with Colin Campbell.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Bert Rockman, (765) 494-4162, rockman@polsci.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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