Republicans for Ralph Nader? - Billy Corriher

After weeks of hearing from former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke about what the Bush administration did – or didn't do – to combat terrorism before 9/11, the accusations are affecting the president's poll numbers.

The Associated Press reported that Bush's approval rating on handling terrorism dropped from 70 percent to 57 percent between January and March, according to a recent Newsweek poll.

The poll revealed that Bush has lost little ground in the last two months among Republicans on his handling of terrorism, but he lost 23 percentage points among Democrats and 13 points among independents.

The Bush administration has launched a counterattack on Clarke, questioning his credibility and his motives for speaking out about how the administration handled terrorism. And apparently, the administration's counterattack has worked in convincing Republicans to stay on the Bush bandwagon.

I have a hard time understanding how anyone can't give a little credibility to Clarke's allegations. Clarke was appointed by Reagan and has served under every president since. He doesn't have a partisan axe to grind.

Democrats and independents have listened to Clarke, and it seems that many have changed their opinions of Bush because of his revelations about the president.

But Republicans, it seems, have simply shut their eyes and ears. I was watching television with a conservative friend of mine last Sunday morning. I stopped on Meet the Press, where Clarke was a guest.

"Turn it, man. I hate this guy," he said.

"Yeah, but you've got to listen to some of the stuff he's saying," I replied.

My friend went off on some Rush Limbaugh-esque rant about how everyone is out to get Bush.

I told him that Clarke isn't the first former administration official to make such allegations, but my friend started getting really defensive, so I dropped it.

It seems like the more Bush is attacked, the harder it is to reason with my conservative friends. Even though the attacks aren't coming from Bush's political opponents, the conservative rank and file are standing firm behind their guy.

Ralph Nader, countering criticism that he'll siphon votes from Kerry, has been claiming that he'll take votes away from disillusioned Republicans and independents.

Nader might steal the votes of some independents, but I have yet to find many Republicans who would dare question Dubya's leadership, let alone vote for Nader.

Though I don't agree with many aspects of Bush's handling of the war on terror, I also don't know if I would trust Kerry's judgment. Bush's claim that Kerry flip-flopped on his position on the Iraq war has some credibility.

Kerry voted to authorize the use of force, then after Howard Dean's anti-war campaign exploded onto the scene, he voted against the $87 billion for supporting the effort.

The fact that Kerry voted for the war but against supporting the troops – two decisions that I believe were based on politics – makes me question Kerry's judgment.

I just wish Republicans were a little open-minded when it came to listening to those who question their candidate's judgment. I guess Ralph Nader will just have to rely on the same Democrats who jumped ship and cost Al Gore the last election. The president should write him a thank you letter.

Billy Corriher covers politics and government for the News Daily. He can be reached at bcorriher@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 281.