Emmett Tyrrell

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- There has from the beginning been a troubling ebb and flow to the administration of George W. Bush. Periods of energy and policy dominance come and then they evanesce. For a while, all is quiet. We saw this ebb and flow in the administration's progress towards tax reduction. We see it now in the execution of the war on terror.

 Over the last few weeks, there has been ebb, encouraging the president's domestic critics to go into full howl. From their redoubts on the 9-11 Commission, they have been carrying on as exemplary Monday morning quarterbacks, transforming a serious function of government (the bipartisan review of policy) into a soapbox for demagoguery -- and truly amateurish dramatics. All the while, the president has been in a state of ebb.

 How are we to explain this curious fluctuation of presidential energy? I have no idea. I will speculate, however, that the fluctuation traces directly back to the president. From all I have been able to ascertain, the liberals' portrayal of him as being passive is nonsense. Contrary to the murmurings of Paul O'Neill, this president calls the shots on a wide range of matters, from the daily deportment of his staff to matters of high policy.

 Yet there do seem to be two George W's. One tells his staff to knock off for weekends and for "family time." He himself retires early and shows open disdain for the 24-7 politicking of official Washington. The other is commander in chief and on call 24-7. Is there a whiff of schizophrenia to this president?

 Only his closest advisers would know. The White House keeps others at arms' length. George W. Bush's White House is more insular than any presidency since that of Jimmy Carter. It is surprising that the liberals in the press do not complain, but then those liberals are so biased against him that they have little grounds for complaint. No sensible president would allow them near him. To them, his every move is derisible. Yet no one else sees much of this president, either. His father was not like that. Why he is so remote is a mystery, as is the ebb and flow of his energy.

Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
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