Low Bush Approval Ratings Save Taxpayers Millions This Election Year
Washington, D.C., July 19, 2006 -- With President Bush's approval ratings hovering in the mid-twenties, the generally avid campaigner has achieved something more akin to a pariah status as increasing numbers of Republican senators, congressmen and governors up for election or re-election this November ask the president to "please just stay the hell out of my state".
The unanticipated idling of Bush in Washington has created an unexpected boon to taxpayers in the form of major cost savings realized by the curtailing of the president's campaign junkets. With each campaign stop costing taxpayers up to $1 million, nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money is expected to be recouped thanks to the cancellations.
In a typical year, President Bush generally makes up to 90 trips around the country in an effort to boost the political fortunes of congressional and gubernatorial allies. With Air Force One costing over $60,000 per hour to operate, and with the massive security precautions, hotel room bookings, rental cars, orderly rows of sycophants and so forth that must be arranged at each of Bush's appearances, a typical 15 minute speech, photo-op and fundraiser appearance with an aspiring Republican congressman can cost taxpayers up to a million dollars.
In an important mid-term election year such as this one, the president was expected to make nearly 400 of these kinds of stops.
The trips are generally justified by including a token official appearance, such as a visit by President Bush to a childrens hospital or horseshoe factory, but the primary purpose is always fundraising and support for like-minded political candidates.
This year, however, taxpayers are getting a break thanks in large part to Bush's plummeting popularity ratings. Rather than the expected 400 stopovers and appearances, Bush has thus far made only eleven. At nine of these, the political candidates whom Bush had intended to support canceled at the last minute, in all nine cases due to "tummy bugs".
"Normally, getting the president to stand next to you on the podium and shake your hand for the cameras is worth at least an extra 200 grand in the war chest," said Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, whose 2006 reelection campaign can best be described as moribund. "But this year, with Bush's latest opinion polls showing a 25, 26 percent approval rating, the last thing you need is to be seen with the guy. It'd be political suicide. Most of us just try to quietly sneak out of the state if we hear that he's on his way."
Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri, however, paints a different picture.
"Look, when you're under indictment for that Jack Abramoff thing, like I am, you need to grasp at any straw you can, no matter how thin and brittle," Mr. Blunt said. "I've asked the president to come and visit me in Missouri at least once a month every month until November. We usually barbecue some ribs, have a few near beers, roll up our sleeves and strut a little for the cameras. We try to make him feel appreciated—his ego needs a lot of stroking. My chance of getting reelected is about diddly, but I'm hoping that could maybe buy me a presidential pardon. God knows I'm going to need one."
The president's aides, meanwhile, faced with the disturbing fact of the president spending much more time than expected in the White House, have been scrambling to "find something to keep him occupied that won't fuck things up too much."
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said, "It's kind of like having a senile or alcoholic relative come to your house for a long stay. You want them to feel welcome, but you have to keep an eye on them all the time so they don't steal the TV or throw up on the couch. It's exhausting, frankly. We've been trying to get him back to Crawford, but he says brush clearing season doesn't start until September. Maybe Condi Rice can send him somewhere like Mongolia again. They seemed to like him there."
Lawmakers are now debating the best means by which to dispose of what they are terming the "lame duck windfall". Republicans in Congress have proposed a one-time "appreciation envelope budget provision" that would disburse the recouped funds directly to senators and congressmen in the form of a cash bonus to the majority party; alternatively, to fit the congressional washrooms with solid gold urinals and commodes. The proposals have yet to win widespread bipartisan endorsement.
By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor
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