A year of setbacks costs Bush his political capital
This happens when you are over confident and arrogant...
A year ago, having survived a second close election, a supremely self-confident President Bush declared, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it."
This week, when a Latin American journalist asked Bush what he carries with him, the president removed a handkerchief from his pants. Then he pulled his empty pockets inside out and said: "Es todo. No dinero." ("That's all. No money.")
The demonstration pretty much sums up the status of Bush's political capital. Most of it is gone. He spent a big chunk on his unsaleable scheme for reinventing Social Security. The rest slipped away as the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, soaring energy costs, the CIA-leak probe and other setbacks dropped the president's stock.
Bush's public approval, at 90% in the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll four years ago, has dropped a dozen points since his re-election and has hovered around 40% since August. Democrats and independents, without whom he wouldn't have won, have deserted him in droves; his remaining support is little more than the Republican Party base.
At that post-election news conference in November, Bush ticked off his agenda: "Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror." Largely because of arrogance by Bush and resistance by Democrats, much of that agenda is in tatters.
Social Security? Despite months of coast-to-coast campaigning, Bush failed to get traction for his plan to create private investment accounts.
Tax reform? It was kicked to a study commission; the panel's report landed this week with a thud.
The economy? It continues to grow, but soaring deficits have cost Republicans their credibility as the party best able to manage the budget.
Education? Bush's modest proposals appear largely to have sunk with little trace.
The war on terror? Osama bin Laden remains at large, and the United States remains bogged down in Iraq.
Almost every second-term president has had major problems. Bush's go-it-alone governing style - never wrong and seldom in doubt - has contributed to his.
The intervention in Iraq, which once had strong bipartisan backing, might have kept more support if the administration had been more willing to admit and learn from its mistakes. Social Security and tax reforms are so politically touchy that, to succeed, they must be bipartisan from the start. After Katrina, the cartoonish performance of Michael Brown and other political appointees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency damaged Bush's image as a competent manager of homeland security.
Landslide presidents, even George Washington, have had major second-term grief. A president elected by a bare majority, like Bush, is well-advised to govern to the middle, engaging in give-and-take to build coalitions and listening to voices outside his inner circle of loyalists. Three more years is a long time to try to preside with empty pockets.
2006 ML 350 - Black, Appearance Package, Navigation System, Entertainment Package, Sunroof Package, Heated Seats, IPod Integration