Lame duck presidents, weary of being hammered by critics at home, typically flee to foreign capitals. Their hosts are bound by diplomatic courtesy not to call them “liar” “thief” or “war criminal.”

So it was predictable that President George W. Bush would flee to South America and then to Asia. He left behind a top aide under criminal indictment, Iraq sinking ever deeper into quagmire, oil profiteers wallowing in ill-gotten loot and a Republican leadership so discredited they had to back off the president’s demand for $50 billion in cutbacks of food stamps and Medicaid. $70 billion in tax cuts for the rich were also left hanging. Bush also left behind a million homeless victims of Hurricane Katrina.

But if Bush expected globetrotting to raise his dismal poll ratings, he must have been disappointed. In Seoul, over 20,000 protesters took to the streets, angry at his efforts to ram through a “free trade” agreement at the upcoming Asian Pacific Economic Summit. Their placards read, “We oppose Bush’s visit!” At a similar summit in Argentina two weeks ago, tens of thousands of protesters marched, chanting, “Get out, Bush!”

All this reminds us of President Richard Nixon. As rage against the criminal Vietnam War reached the boiling point, Nixon was reduced to giving speeches at military bases. Everywhere else, his words were drowned by, “Hey, Nixon, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

Bush is headed down the same road. He speaks to captive audiences, grimfaced military personnel, or crowds handpicked to weed out any opponents or protest signs. It is conceivable that Bush, like Nixon, could be forced from office. At the Sept. 24 demonstration in Washington a marcher yelled, “Send him back to Crawford!” Whereupon another voice yelled back, “I’m from Texas. We don’t want him.”

It’s hard to imagine enduring the Bush-Cheney gang for another three years. But in the meantime, there is the 2006 election. The task now is to work hard to send Rep. Tom DeLay back to Texas … or to jail. And Sen. Bill Frist, too.