"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
On almost every front, Republicans see trouble. Bush is at the low point of his presidency, with Iraq, hurricane relief, rising gasoline prices and another Supreme Court vacancy all problems to be solved. Congressional Republicans have seen their approval ratings slide throughout the spring and summer; a Washington Post-ABC News poll in August found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is doing its job, the lowest rating in eight years.
On the ethics front, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is under investigation for selling stock in his family's medical business just before the price fell sharply. The probe of well-connected lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a former close associate of DeLay, threatens to create even more troubles for Republicans. Finally, the special counsel investigation into whether White House senior adviser Karl Rove or others in the administration broke the law by leaking the name of the CIA's Valerie Plame is nearing a conclusion.
What worries Republicans is the confluence of a large number of scandals when Bush and the GOP Congress are at the weakest point in years. In the same fortnight as DeLay's indictment and Frist coming under an ethics cloud, David H. Safavian was arrested in connection with the Abramoff investigation days after resigning as the government's top procurement officer.
At an earlier point, Bush could have provided political cover for scandals that touched one or another Republican elected official. But with his approval ratings in the low 40s, there is little to prop up the party's image when congressional leaders are under investigation. Already there have been signs that Bush's influence with members of his own party was beginning to wane as House Republicans look to 2006. Without DeLay in power, the prospects of further splintering increase, adding to perceptions of a party in growing disarray.