Donald Lambro

Obviously, Bush isn't feeling irrelevant. "Quite the contrary," he said. "I've never felt more engaged and more capable of helping people recognize ... that there's a lot of unfinished business."

One way to exert his relevance is the veto, a tool the Founding Fathers gave to the presidency to prevent bad legislation from becoming law, and he has begun using it with deadly effectiveness.

He has vetoed Democratic legislation to micromanage the war in Iraq and to impose troop-withdrawal timelines, vetoes the Democrats have been unable to override.

More recently, he vetoed the Democrats' attempt to boost spending for the State Children's Health Insurance Program by an additional $35 billion over five years that would have more than doubled its funding.

Bush has proposed a 20 percent hike in the SCHIP program that would add 500,000 low-income children to the program, and as this is written, it appeared the Democrats did not have the votes to override his veto in the House.

Meantime, none of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been passed, even though the government is more than two weeks into the new fiscal year. Bush is threatening to veto most, if not all, of them if they exceed his spending limits, but for now he has stymied the Democrats' propensity to spend like there's no tomorrow.

To be sure, Bush's job-approval polls remain in the basement, largely due to the war, but Congress' job-approval scores are worse. Perhaps it is the Democrats who have become irrelevant, or at least impotent.

He has had successes elsewhere this year. The deficit has plummeted as a result of much higher-than-expected tax revenues and the application of spending brakes by the Office of Management and Budget.

The military surge in Iraq has succeeded in driving the terrorists out of key provinces, while giving the Iraqis time to strengthen their own military as Gen. David Petraeus prepares to withdraw some of our forces in the next six months.

On the diplomatic front, we have persuaded North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program as efforts toward a preliminary relationship between North and South Korea have begun to make some tentative headway.

All of these things did not happen by accident, but were the result of strategic decisions made by Bush and carried out by his administration. Mischievous suggestions by underinformed White House reporters that he has grown increasingly irrelevant are a bit premature at this point.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.