100 Days of Bush2…

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The Wash Post notes that, 100 days into George Bush's second term, Dubya's looking like a lame duck already:

As the president passed the 100-day mark of his second term over the weekend, the main question facing Bush and his party is whether they misread the November elections. With the president's poll numbers down, and the Republican majority ensnared in ethical controversy, things look much less like a once-a-generation realignment.

Whole thing here.

Social Security reform certainly looks iffy–especially given last week's presidential press conference which clarified little other than Bush's inability to make a strong case for private accounts (here's a hint: drop the rhetoric about saving the program's solvency and focus instead on the ownership-society ideal of letting poorer people pass on something to their kids). The war in Iraq seems to be spinning its wheels (at best). There's little movement on a guest-worker program for immigrants. Etc. Not much to cheer about.

For a remembrance of Bush's first 100 days–when he was promising missile defense, an energy policy, and, er, Social Security reform–go here.

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  1. He’s been a lame duck since November 3.

    That now-quaint talk about his mandate was what military types call a “spoiling attack.”

  2. And which could rekindle the debate about the desirousness of a two term presidency. Is this where we start the “one six year term” campaign?

  3. I don’t know, Steve, but in any case that wouldn’t be until after Bush’s Emergency Third Term (you know, after Karl–I mean Islamo-fascist terrorists blow up Mt. Rushmore).

  4. TM Steve,

    I would support any system that discourages the wastes of time and money that are re-election campaigns.

    cdunlea, when that happens, I’m moving into the woods in Michigan, Red Dawn style.

  5. Lame duck is a good thing, most especially for this guy (what no more wars?), but it’s hard to think of a realistic situation where it wouldn’t be. I only cross my fingers this differently abled duck business continues.

  6. I meant of course it’s a good thing if the assumption here is correct: that it leads to less being done.

    If it leads to more being done without accountability, which I sometimes suspect, then it’s screwy.

  7. Lame duck is always good if it means a weak president. That’s one powerful argument for the single 6-year term.

    Another argument is that presidents seeking re-election 1st term presidents tend to pander quite a bit. Can you say steel tarriff? Farm bill? Sure, those things also had Congressional support, but presidents have veto pens. (Well, Clinton had one. It got stuck in an intern’s orifice and that’s why Bush hasn’t been able to use it.)

    Of course, the single 6-year term will never happen, but one can always dream…

  8. I guess the main issue here is how disappointed are the folks who paid big bucks to get Bush re-elected?

  9. Bush’s problem is that he’s trying to bite off way too much. He needs to pick one Big Idea for the second term and run with it, but instead he’s trying to do half-a-dozen things that are seriously unpopular with between 40% to 65% of the country’s population (i.e., from democratizing the world to Social Security reform).

  10. SR-

    Like somebody said in another thread: The Republicans can either have some sort of Social Security reform or they can have a culture war. They can’t have both, and it looks like they’re leaning toward the culture war.

    One more reason why I’m glad I voted LP.

  11. Does a state of lame-duckery actually lead to less being done, i.e.; gridlock? Personally I am pretty damn happy with gridlock because it generally leads to Congress adhering to that portion of the Hippocratic oath that says, “first, do no harm”.

    So, if we determine that Bush has indeed achieved the condition of lame-duckness, then we are looking at just short of four years of it! I would estimate the minimum amount of lame-duck presidency at 1.5 – 2.0 years; regardless of who the President may be. Were we to go with the single 6 year term idea I think it fair to say we would, if we were lucky, get 2 – 3 years.

    Thus, we are pretty much guaranteed 2 years, either way, but with the right circumstances (such as we have now or as we had with the Monica/Clinton business) we can almost double the lame-duck time.

    If lame-duckery = gridlock then I recommend we stick with the two four year terms.

  12. Old Bush2. Old Dubya. Let me tell you about lackluster presidents, though. Back when I was at Pencey Prep, for a year I had this roommate, Jimmy Stockalablocker. He was our class president. He didn’t seem to get much done, and he always went over-budget, but you know what? He used to whistle while he did his homework, and I tell you, he was one terrific whistler. I mean, he could whistle like nobody’s business. He didn’t try to make it all fancy in a phony, conceited way. I hate that goddamn phony crap, to tell you the truth. But Jimmy was great. So guys like Dubya, who seem like lackluster presidents, maybe they’re all secretly terrific whistlers or something. Who the hell knows? I don’t.

  13. The Republicans can either have some sort of Social Security reform or they can have a culture war.

    I don’t get why you think they have to choose between the two. What Social Security reformer is going to abandon reform because the Republicans are pushing a gay marriage amendment?

    If Social Security fails it will be because the media and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) succeed in scaring enough of the public into thinking that the stock market is less reliable than the government. That’s a problem unrelated to the culture war.

  14. Another note — the lame-duck effect doesn’t lead to gridlock. The only stuff that doesn’t get done is the stuff that Congress was unenthusiastic about (e.g., spending cuts and Social Security reform), because Congress has no reason to bend to the will of an ineffective President. Stuff that both the President *and* Congress want will still pass easily.

  15. “I don’t get why you think they have to choose between the two.”

    Because getting anything difficult done involves convincing people who aren’t already committed. Bush needs to get people who aren’t committed to privatizing Social Security that they can trust him, and/or that they’d better get on board. If he’s waging unrelated culture war fights, he’s alienating people he needs to win over. If he’s struggling on any of the fronts he’s fighting on, it makes resistance seem less futile.

  16. I don’t get why you think they have to choose between the two. What Social Security reformer is going to abandon reform because the Republicans are pushing a gay marriage amendment?

    Phrases like “political capital” and “you can’t always get what you want” spring to mind. Politicians who are ambivalent on both issues (or, more accurately, whose constituents are ambivalent on both issues) might take the risk and support him on one of those issues, figuring that they can find a way to explain it in November of 2006. But the more issues they take a risk on, well, the tougher re-election is.

    Not every Republican Congressman supports Bush 100% on either issue, for all sorts of reasons. More importantly, not every district electing a Republican Congressman has a majority that will support Bush’s ideal solutions on either issue.

  17. He should have confronted tax code reform first after getting re-elected instead of plunging into the maelstrom of social security reform. I admire him for confronting such a divisive issue head-on, but he could have gotten strong bipartisan support on tax code reform, and then have some mileage to move on to something more controversial.

  18. panurge-

    It’s also possible that tax code reform would make Social Security reform easier. Any change to Social Security will inevitably include questions about taxes (payroll taxes if nothing else) and investments, and perhaps a careful reform of the tax code could have laid some of the groundwork for Social Security reform.

    Then again, no politician has ever missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

  19. *quack* *quack* *thunk* *quack*
    *thunk* *quack* *quack*
    *quack* *quack* *thunk* *quack*
    *thunk* *quack*
    *thunk* *quack*

  20. Oh! A duck with a wooden leg.

  21. “but he could have gotten strong bipartisan support on tax code reform, and then have some mileage to move on to something more controversial”

    Well, there’s reform, and then there’s reform. Bush could get a large bipartisan majority for 1986-style tax reform – lowering rates, closing loopholes – but that’s not what he wants. The Republican Party has demonstrated a clear vision of doing exactly the opposite – creating larger loopholes/special interest tax incentives, and making it easier for (wealthy) people to dodge their taxes.

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