Following politics recently, I'm starting to feel that we've been time warped back to August, 2001. As you may recall, at the time, after passing a flurry of bills that he had campaigned on, President Bush had largely stalled out, and Republicans were beginning to wonder if the President's critics were right. Bush spent the next three years riding support for his anti-terror agenda. But at this point, the public has gotten the sense that the war on terror will be a long, hard (and often dull) slog. The insurgents in Iraq are back in full force after a post-election lull. Global terror attacks are up significantly in the past year. The new Iraqi government has been slow moving and is mired in conflict.
With foreign policy no longer providing a safe refuge, Bush has had to return to domestic policy. He's now simultaneously trying to prop up Tom Delay against ethics charges, support his nomination of John Bolton, push his social security program, and back Senate Republicans in eliminating the filibuster, all issues on which he has little public support and on which Democrats feel they can capitalize. Add to that the failed and unpopular gambit to intervene in the Schiavo affair, and the Bush presidency appears to be a key setback or two from descending into irrelevance. His party is wavering and beginning to drift. This looks much more like Bush the bumbling amateur politician of mid-2001 than Bush the avenging war hero of more recent times.
Undoubtedly the Bush team still has a few tricks up their sleeve. In political cycles it's a long time until 2008 and Bush will have ample opportunity to try to reinvent himself. I can't even speculate which direction he might turn, but it does seem that much of his difficulties are related to his stubborn, hard-line approach to policy and his close relationship with the Religious Right, and I have a hard time picturing him compromising on either point. Time will tell. Perhaps the best hope of the administration at this point is that the Democrats will fumble the ball, as they did in the election last year. I can't say I have a great deal of confidence in them, but the Democrats can't screw up all the time. They'll get it right eventually. Everything is set up for them right now. All they've got to do is bring it home. I've got my fingers crossed..