The fact is that the American public is depressed, for whatever reason. Surveys show most Americans feel the nation is headed in the wrong direction. This is despite our strong stock market, tolerable employment levels and economic growth, and the absence of a second major terrorist attack (keep knocking on wood).
For better or worse, the president's reaction to this state of affairs is to pursue the issues and the philosophy that matter to him rather than aim to score in the public opinion polls. So he preaches globalism and spreading democracy throughout the world at the very moment that more and more Americans are telling pollsters they prefer laws that put American citizens and their jobs first, and that they have little stomach for more armed conflicts, or even for the continuation of the one in Iraq.
Polls show that most Americans want Congress in the hands of the Democrats. But the Democrats have no message that will transform polling numbers into votes. The days of the Ted Kennedys and Chuck Schumers are slowly coming to an end. And the Democrats' leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, may become the focus of major negative press in the coming months, as reporters start examining potential Democratic connections to the Abramoff lobbying scandal, so far a primarily Republican problem.
So the clock ticks. What agenda will the House GOP embrace in an effort to avoid a huge slide in November? Will Democrats seize their apparent opportunity to take the House or the Senate back? If so, what possible unifying issue or public face will they offer? Hillary Clinton? Only to select audiences. Barack Obama of Illinois? Perhaps. John Kerry again? Surely not.
It seems the only listeners to Bush's speech in the House chamber Tuesday night who could sit back with some degree of security were the members of the Supreme Court.
Maybe that's why Bush was better than usual in his delivery. He knew that, regardless of this year's midterm elections, he had already scored what may be looked back on as his greatest victory -- the assurance of a conservative high court.