Friday, August 03, 2007

The Dead Bush Presidency Goals Pile Up

"He Can't Get Anything Done"

Except Destroy Democrat Initiatives

Of course it's too soon to right off President Bush completely. Even his most virulent enemies acknowledge he is a smart politician, a successful, if dirty, back room trader of favors and dangerous when cornered.

But there's a rising chorus of those who say his big ticket policies are now dead, at least in the form he intended to make them to become reality : No Child Left Behind, Immigration Reform, Expanded Free Trade...

This piece from Bloomberg argues that Bush, while firmly tagged and bagged now as a "lame duck", still has plenty of surprises and radical upheavals to unleash in his remaining 17 months in the White House :

Once the champion of big reforms, Bush in twilight is on the defensive and pushing secondary initiatives. Instead of partial privatization of Social Security, which died in 2005, or overhauling immigration, which was killed this year, he wants to: roll back Democrats' social spending; enact a limited expansion of his No Child Left Behind school testing program; push modest energy programs that reduce dependence on foreign oil; win approval of a handful of regional free-trade deals.

While Bush may prevail in some spending fights, few politicians or historians say much of his scaled-back agenda is achievable in the waning days of an unpopular presidency.

Weakened by low job-approval ratings, Bush has little choice but to lower his sights.

By hardening his position on compromise with the Democratic congressional majority, Bush may face increased partisan rancor and gridlock for his remaining 18 months in office. He's already threatening to veto eight of 12 congressional appropriations bills and wants to block popular measures that expand children's health-care programs and fatten farm subsidies.

Bush is also struggling to get Congress to ratify trade agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia and South Korea. Only the Peru and Panama deals are considered decent prospects for passage this year.

Bush is finding the footing equally treacherous on the energy front. His plans to boost ethanol production and cut U.S. gasoline use 20 percent by 2017 are ensnared in fights with Democrats, who insist on stringent measures against price- gouging.

Bush risks overdoing his line-in-the sand strategy, said Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based policy research organization.

"He thinks that will revive his base and improve his standing. It's more likely to lead to Republican defections.''

Edwards, of Texas A&M, says Bush has exhausted his ability to persuade voters to change their minds. Said Edwards: "His ability to sway public opinion is zero.''

That may be so, but President Bush started off as a deeply unpopular president in 2001. It was the 9/11 attacks that stormed most of the nation behind him and gave him some of the highest polls of any president in American history.

Now, on the brink of becoming the most unpopular president in American history, Bush may still have something up his sleeve, a few more special cards left to play.

Considering all that has gone down in the past seven years, it's hard to imagine that Bush's final year and a half in office will be monumentally less dramatic.