Down But Not Out
George W. Bush seems
beset on all fronts. His job rating dipped to new lows after his
torpid response to Hurricane Katrina. Casualties continue in Iraq,
and some Democrats call for withdrawal now or by a date certain.
The Social Security changes he campaigned for earlier this year
seem unlikely to be enacted. Proposals to make tax cuts permanent
are stalled in Congress -- and stalled proposals sometimes never
The president's commission
on tax reform is soon to report -- but no one seems much interested,
and the last major tax reform took a full two years to work its
way through Congress. Any proposals now would have, at best, 14
Moreover, the Republican
base, which has given Bush stronger support than it gave Ronald
Reagan, is now seething with discontent. Spending is too high,
fiscal conservatives say, and they add that authorizing $100 billion
and up for rebuilding New Orleans is way out of line. Bush's proposals
to regularize the status of currently illegal immigrants are decried
on talk radio and at town meetings.
blogosphere is furious about Bush's appointment of his counsel,
Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court. They are itching for a fight
on principle, convinced they could win in a Republican Senate.
By not naming a nominee with bedrock conservative credentials,
Bush in their view is flinching from a battle.
is a president who responds to challenges with renewed bursts
of vigor. In public appearances last week, Bush came out swinging
in defense of his Iraq policy and in support of Miers. The Bush
White House has not quite given up on Social Security, and top
aides believe that House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas still
wants to advance a version of individual investment accounts.
Bush and the Republican Congress (with some Democratic help) have
ground out tax cuts in a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust manner,
and may well continue the strategy once the Katrina issues have
been settled. The Republican House has already passed all 11 large
appropriations bills for the next fiscal year, but there will
be opportunity for more cuts when conference committees meet.
after his press conference, Bush spoke eloquently and in more
specific detail than he has before on Iraq in a speech to the
National Endowment for Democracy. Bush identified our adversaries
not, as he has in the past, as generic terrorists, but as "evil
Islamic radicalism," "militant Jihadism" and "Islamo-fascism."
He described the campaigns in which American forces, sometimes
leading and sometimes aiding Iraqis, are clearing out Iraqi cities
on the roads to Syria and then installing Iraqi units to prevent
the enemy from returning. He described how more than 80 Iraqi
battalions are now fighting alongside us, up from not much more
than zero in July 2004.
returned Lt. Gen. David Petraeus provides additional detail: More
than 36 Iraqi battalions are capable of fighting "in the
lead," and another 80 are capable of "fighting alongside"
war leaders like Franklin Roosevelt have used a narrative framework
to tell citizens how progress is being made and work is being
done to assure progress in the future. Bush did a better job of
that last week than he has in some time. He needs to keep it up
to counter mainstream media that have mostly focused on casualty
counts. And to make clear the consequences of withdrawal or failure:
"Would the United States and other free nations be more safe,
or less safe, with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq, its
people and its resources?"
policy, Bush has been pursuing the plans he set out in his 2000
campaign, some of which seem blocked, temporarily or permanently.
His gas tank is running low. Of course, the Democrats have little
in the way of specific proposals, aside from repeal of the Bush
tax cuts -- they've been running on empty since Bill Clinton left
the public to say a pox on both parties. But it also provides
an opening for Bush to lay out a more robust agenda -- maybe in
his State of the Union next January -- one geared to the years
ahead, instead of his priorities in 2000. Bush seems beset now,
but he has a chance to rebound and confound his vitriolic critics
Copyright 2005 US News & World Report
Distributed by Creators Syndicate
To a Friend | Printer