They're kidding, right
In Need of New Moves, but in Which Direction?
By JIM RUTENBERG
Published: November 27, 2006
WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 — President Bush leaves for Europe on Monday uncertain of the Washington he will return to, or even his place in it.
Certainly the pressure is on for Mr. Bush to right a presidency mired in low poll ratings, beset by an unpopular war and claiming few domestic accomplishments in his second term. And the moment would seem to call for something drastic.
But official Washington remains unsure of which way he may go in trying to salvage his legacy. Will he continue on as if nothing has changed, pursuing conservative policies he believes history will smile upon later, even if it means getting nothing past a Democratic Congress here and now? Or will he move to the political center and seek deals with Democrats that will sour conservatives but leave him with a longer list of accomplishments?
As his top aides meet to plan their first moves of the new year with a new Congress — focusing acutely on his State of the Union address — Mr. Bush seems to be hemmed in from both sides.
For all of their talk about bipartisanship, the newly elected Democrats still have fresh memories of six years of presidential attacks painting them as “wrong on taxes” and “weak on defense.” Already they are talking about investigations into the administration’s domestic wiretapping and terrorist detainee programs and the vice president’s consultations with energy officials, among other things.
The president’s own party remains angry with him for his handling of the war, the delayed ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the low presidential approval ratings that contributed to this fall’s Republican wipeout.
Senior Republican staff members in Congress have voiced the fear that Mr. Bush will now put his legacy over the party’s immediate future, and take his cues from President Bill Clinton by “triangulating” when opportunity strikes — that is, making deals with Democrats, over Republican objections, on immigration, health care or Social Security.
“While the White House is trying to define their legacy, they’ll try to triangulate us,” said one senior Republican leadership aide who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “There is no sense of wanting to defend the Bush administration right now.”
Historians argue that losing control of the House and the Senate in 1994 had its benefits for Mr. Clinton. It gave him new purpose as he struck deals with Congressional Republicans on deficit reduction and changes in a bloated welfare system, but also offered a new foil that he railed against with regularity.
But Mr. Clinton was only two years into his presidency, with six years ahead in which to try to regain his political footing; Mr. Bush has just two years ahead of him in the White House. And Mr. Clinton’s moves to assert his own relevancy after the so-called Republican Revolution arguably came at the expense of his party; Mr. Bush and his longtime top strategist, Karl Rove, have put the Republican Party’s future vitality at the heart of their hoped-for legacy.
Still, Mr. Bush has pledged to find common ground with Democrats, notably on a new minimum wage, proposed changes in the immigration law and the reauthorization of his main education initiative, No Child Left Behind. “I intend to work with the new Congress in a bipartisan way to address issues confronting this country,” he said immediately after the election.
Bush is going to act as if nothing happened. He is convinced that he is on the right path.
As I have said for three years, we are in Iraq as long as the Iraqis suffer us. I think they have suffered enough.
posted by Steve @ 12:53:00 AM