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December 9, 2004
LA Times Misses The Point

The Los Angeles Times attempts to analyze the aftereffects of the political tussle over the intelligence bill that has now passed both chambers of Congress and is on its way to the White House. They conclude that Congress has put George Bush on notice that they can't be pushed around any more -- when the Times misses the fact that Bush just steamrolled them:

President Bush has gotten a fresh education this week in how to deal with an increasingly feisty Congress as he heads into his second term.

The protracted struggle to enact an overhaul of the nation's intelligence community showed that conservative powerbrokers in Congress could not be steamrollered as easily as when Bush first was elected. Republican leaders are not as willing to "win ugly" as when they rammed his Medicare bill through the House last year, with arm-twisting so aggressive that it drew a rebuke from the Ethics Committee. ...

The Republican rebellion that slowed action on the intelligence overhaul was a warning sign that Bush will have to speak clearly and listen carefully to his GOP allies in Congress if he is to hold together his party's motley coalition of defense hawks, religious activists and economic conservatives.

Er, no. What it showed was that when the Bush administration finally decided it wanted this bill to pass -- which it took its time doing -- they know how to play power politics to make it happen. Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner leveraged dissenting opinions on the bill by the Pentagon into holding the bill hostage, a move enabled by Denny Hastert's grandstanding play of keeping the bill tabled despite a clear majority supporting its passage. Even a majority of Republicans wanted the bill passed; in the end, only seventy-five voted against it.

What did the White House do? It inserted a clause that redundantly stated that the bill could no nothing that prevented the Dept. of Defense from fulfilling its statutory duty, a meaningless addition which allowed Duncan Hunter to withdraw while saving some face. Sensenbrenner didn't even get that much; the White House told him that the check was in the mail, and his concerns on immigration would be addressed next year. (Sensenbrenner voted against the bill.) Hastert suddenly stopped being the center of attention and moved the bill for passage lickety-split.

Wow, they really taught that George Bush a lesson!

When George Bush talked about spending political capital, he didn't just mean against Democrats. He meant that he intended to leverage his agenda through both parties in the upcoming session of Congress. He made it possible for many of these Republicans to get elected in the last two cycles, and all signs point to even more coattails in the next mid-term elections. Far from having to kiss up, the Bush political genius puts him at an advantage, especially in Congress, where they need a strong Bush to win their next election. They saw in this attempt to hijack one of Bush's bills that he still holds the cards.

The Times indulges itself in thinking that Bush has become a weak sister after another stunning national gain for the GOP. It's that thinking that will create another opportunity for Bush to do it again in 2006.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 9, 2004 7:01 AM

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» Behind the scenes of the intelligence reform bill from The Shape of Days
Captain Ed take the Los Angeles Times to task for a completely misleading "news analysis" story in today's edition. The Times writes that "President Bush has gotten a fresh education this week in how to deal with an increasingly feisty [Read More]

Tracked on December 9, 2004 10:11 AM

» Some interesting thoughts..... from Media Lies
....from Captain Ed on who pulled whose strings in the Intel bill dustoff. [Read More]

Tracked on December 9, 2004 10:15 PM

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