Friday, February 16, 2007

President Bush Regains Footing

David Broder has an interesting column in the Washington Post today saying that President Bush is making a political comeback of sorts.

When Bush faced reporters on Wednesday morning, he knew that virtually all those in the Democratic majority would be joined by a significant minority of Republicans in voting today to decry the "surge" strategy.

He did three things to diminish the impact of that impending defeat.

First, he argued that the House was at odds with the Senate, which had within the past month unanimously confirmed Gen. David H. Petraeus as the new commander in Iraq -- the man Bush said was the author of the surge strategy and the man who could make it work. Bush has made Petraeus his blocking back in this debate -- replacing Vice President Cheney, whose credibility is much lower.

Second, he minimized the stakes in the House debate by endorsing the good motives of his critics, rejecting the notion that their actions would damage U.S. troops' morale or embolden the enemy -- all by way of saying that the House vote was no big deal.

And third, by contrasting today's vote on a nonbinding resolution with the pending vote on funding the war in Iraq, he shifted the battleground to a fight he is likely to win -- and put the Democrats on the defensive. Much of their own core constituency wants them to go beyond nonbinding resolutions and use the power of the purse to force Bush to reduce the American commitment in Iraq.

The one thing Broder does not address in this column (and it is an important thing) is how the President will react to John Murtha's slow bleed strategy, which is designed to allow Democrats to claim they are funding the troops without actually supporting the war.

Broder's description of President Bush is much more like my impressions of Mr. Bush as governor of Texas. Texas is famously known for having a weak governor (most power is invested in the lieutenant governor). As governor of Texas, President Bush spent most of his time negotiating with a Democratic state legislature, and he won most of the battles. It sounds to me like this is what Broder is describing: that the President is trying to find ways to persuade his Democratic opponents to agree with him on at least some issues.

Broder is correct when he says Americans want to see more bipartisanship and less squabbling in Washington. I don't think bipartisanship is as important, however, as all the pundits say. Most Americans just want them to stop squabbling.