Saturday, October 29, 2005

Michael: A Presidency on Life Support

Bush's Presidency is effectively over. He retains considerable constitutional powers, no doubt, but for the next 1000 days or so of his Presidency, he rules without the consent of the governed. In fact, Bush has become radioactive to members of his own party. That's not to say that he has no standing and no influence, but he will no longer be able to control his party to the extent that he needen't even pull out his veto stamp, as was the case for his first term.

Instead, when Bush tries to lead the nation, everyone, not just Democrats, are going to gauge his current prestige before deciding if they'll follow. And they will find him lacking. That means that any ambitious agenda Bush might have had laid out for his second term is simply not going to happen. Instead he'll be pushed about reacting to events rather than being the historical actor who has stepped out of the "reality-based community" to shape events whom he aspires to be.

It may be that conservatives will get what they've always wanted, but in a perverse fashion: a weak and ineffectual government that is due to a failure of President's ability to lead. When there is a vaccuum of leadership from the Presidency, Congress usually re-asserts its prerogatives to give the nation direction. You can see this happening with the deep social spending cuts now being considered by both chambers - though this is hardly a promising direction to lead us in, it does indicate that for once, the White House isn't calling the tune.

If the Democrats are able to capitalize on the scandals and failures of GOP Congressional and Presidential leadership to retake either chamber, we could see a re-vitalized Congress mounting a challenge to Bush for leadership of the nation and a Congressionally centered agenda for the final two years of Bush's term. Voters may well find such an arrangement superior to hoping the a fatally wounded Presidency will recover, or having faith that a lickspittle and corrupt GOP Congress can put the nation back on the right track.

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