As year two of President George W. Bush's second term dawns, predictably, efforts to make him a lame duck are well advanced, efforts apparently abetted by well-meaning but misguided White House aides.
Last week, the Washington Post characterized the president's plans for comprehensive tax reform as "dead or comatose" when it revealed conversations with White House insiders who claim Bush has decided that "overarching initiatives such as restructuring Social Security are unworkable in a time of war." Thus, the Post proclaimed, "No one in the White House expects the (State of the Union) speech to include anything of the magnitude of Social Security (reform)."
"Instead of home runs," an unnamed aide said, "Bush will focus on hitting singles and doubles."
The Post also quoted conservative "activist" Grover Norquist as claiming, "The lesson from this year is you cannot do anything dramatic unless you have 60 votes (in the Senate)."
This web of pessimism has spread to London, where in the Daily Telegraph quoted Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., as saying, "The White House has realized it had too ambitious an agenda and is re-tooling as we speak." The Telegraph quotes Upton as telling the Los Angeles Times in the aftermath of a "brainstorming session" with Karl Rove that the White House is "looking at what is achievable, versus the grand big picture."
With this attitude Republicans might as well go fishing. If the GOP doesn't have a bold domestic agenda carried by a confident president during the upcoming midterm elections, not only will it transform a vigorous president into a lame duck, it could forfeit its congressional majority. Far from having to worry about finding 60 votes in the Senate, Republicans could end up without 51.
I prefer football metaphors, but because the White House aide speaks in baseball, here goes: Bush is behind going into the middle innings of his second term. There is time to catch up but the president won't be able to do it by swinging for singles, coaxing bases on balls, bunting and stealing home. He needs to field a heavy hitter that can reach the fences, i.e., tax reform that simplifies the code and lowers rates on labor and capital.