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July 28, 2005
Democrats Eat Crow Over Lame Duck Claims

After declaring George Bush a lame duck in the opening months of his second term, the media has had to backtrack after the last couple of weeks. Instead of being a lame duck and despite sagging poll numbers, two separate media analyses now acknowledge that Bush has done remarkably well in pushing his legislative agenda. The New York Times reports in tomorrow's edition that Congress continues to bend to his will:

In a flurry of last-minute action as it prepared to recess, Congress on Thursday passed or stood at the brink of final action on several hard-fought measures that had been at the top of Mr. Bush's summer to-do list and that at times had seemed to be long shots. The House narrowly approved a new trade deal with Central American nations early on Thursday morning, the final hurdle for a pact that was one of the administration's top economic priorities this year.

The House and Senate were wrapping up work Thursday on an energy bill that more or less conforms to what Mr. Bush has sought. And the two chambers were moving toward final passage of a transportation bill that contained enough pork to please lawmakers as they headed home, but with a price tag acceptable to the White House.

Even as the legislative wheels turned in Mr. Bush's direction, the White House was watching with satisfaction as the president's choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, Judge John G. Roberts, continued to win support from all wings of the Republican Party while leaving Democrats with little that might threaten his confirmation.

"You can disagree with the merits of individual things, but there's a lot that's been done," said John B. Breaux, the former Democratic senator from Louisiana who often worked across party lines.

The president's record over the past few weeks, combined with generally good economic news and word that the budget deficit is shrinking, suggests that Mr. Bush has hardly lapsed into the lame-duck status that Democrats had been hoping to assign him.

The AP sounds a similar note in their overview of Bush's first six months of his final term:

On Thursday, the House approved a Bush-backed energy bill loaded with $14.5 billion in tax breaks, designed to boost U.S. production. The Senate was expected to approve it on Friday and the White House said Bush who has been urging a major change in U.S. energy policy for five years will sign it.

The House also moved toward expected approval of a Bush-backed $286.4 billion highway and transit bill, hailed by Republicans as capable of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

In his hardest-fought victory, Bush won House approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement previously passed by the Senate late Wednesday night, on a 217-215 vote, overcoming heavy Democratic opposition and some GOP defections. The win was achieved only after last minute dealmaking and arm twisting by Republican leaders, and a roll call held open for an hour.

While the economic impact of the pact is expected to be relatively small, the political symbolism was large. Bush lobbied vigorously, including last-minute in-person appeals on Wednesday, and portrayed the measure as central to his goal of spreading democracy and freedom to combat terrorism.

Democrats remained combative but outmaneuvered.

It doesn't stop with the laundry list of legislative wins covered by the New York Times and the AP -- two media sources hardly sympathetic to Bush -- but earlier this week he finally forced the Democrats to give a substantive response to his proposed Social Security reforms. Not only did Bush make the Democrats stop playing their faux-Gingrich strategy of yelling "No!" over and over again, but in their haste they put forward a plan which changes nothing in Social Security ... but emphasizes private retirement plans, an endorsement that has privatization opponents shaking their heads.

Less than two months ago, Jim VandeHei and the Washington Post had written Bush off. An unnamed but "influential" Republican Congressman told VandeHei of a "growing sense of frustration". Leon Panetta went on the record crowing that Bush had "really burned up whatever mandate he had from that last election." The media, such as the Detroit News and even US News & World Report as late as two weeks ago, continued to press the notion that Bush had lost control of his agenda due to his insistence on forging ahead on Social Security and the war in Iraq. Even the British press jumped in on the act.

Instead of roast duck, however, these critics will have to eat a supersize helping of crow. Presumed to have little native intelligence by his critics, Bush once again shows that he understands how to outmaneuver his political opponents, regardless of whether Karl Rove gets distracted by the Plame investigation. If they want to keep thinking of Bush as unintelligent and impotent, they will wind up losing yet another election cycle to the GOP in 2006.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 28, 2005 10:44 PM

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