June 3, 2005


He's Not Walking Like a Lame Duck (Janet Hook, June 3, 2005, LA Times)

When President Bush first latched onto mountain biking as his favored form of exercise, he plowed over rough terrain with a distinctive technique: Even when he pedaled uphill, he refused to shift to a lower gear.

That is an apt metaphor for the way Bush is making his way through the second term of his presidency: No matter how steep the climb to his goals — to revamp Social Security, to win confirmation for his choice for United Nations ambassador, to bring stability to Iraq — Bush is pushing on, as if heedless of the enormous obstacles he faces in Congress, around the country and across the globe.

Bush's doggedness is one of many assets he has retained in his second term, and he has needed it of late as his top priorities have run into heavy weather in Congress. Democratic critics see Bush's recent troubles as evidence that he has become a lame duck who has lost leverage with lawmakers.

But many analysts — including foes of the White House — say it is premature to write off a president who holds a formidable array of political and institutional tools — and who is determined to use them.

"I don't think he is a lame duck," said Nelson Polsby, a political scientist at UC Berkeley and a Bush critic. "A lame duck is harmless, someone who people disregard because they think he can't be harmful. He still has plenty of potentiality to make trouble."

Bush's ability to influence U.S. foreign policy remains largely unchallenged. He is poised to leave a decisive imprint on the Supreme Court. Among Republicans, he is even more popular than was the icon of American conservatism, Ronald Reagan, at this point in his second term.

And despite tensions with the Republican-led Congress, Bush still enjoys a deep reservoir of goodwill among fellow Republicans for having led the party to strong congressional gains in the 2002 and 2004 elections.

"That's an incredibly powerful base to be standing on to negotiate and work with Congress," said GOP pollster Bill McInturff.

The last thing Congress did before it adjourned was give him the three most extreme judges in the history of humankind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 3, 2005 9:17 AM

Forty years ago, they'd have been left of center.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 3, 2005 10:23 AM