New Bush Strategy: "I'm goin' for the pity f**k"
Bush May Be Out of Chances For a Lasting Domestic Victory
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
NEWPORT, R.I., June 28 -- He looked uncharacteristically dejected as he approached the lectern, fiddling with papers as he talked and avoiding the sort of winking eye contact he often makes with reporters. And then President Bush did something he almost never does: He admitted defeat.
"A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find a common ground," he said an hour after his immigration plan died on Capitol Hill. "It didn't work."
(“Didn’t work,” he muttered again, after taking a pull from a bottle in a paper bag. He rubbed his unshaven face and stared into the middle distance. This drew sympathetic sighs from some of the GOP women in the audience.)
It was, in the end, simply a statement of reality after the Senate buried his proposal to overhaul immigration laws. But for a president who makes a point of never giving in, even when he loses, it was a striking moment, underscoring the depth of his political travails.
(Breaks down; sobs. Regains control of himself, swallows hard, wipes away tears.)
It took almost two years before Bush acknowledged, just months ago, that his effort to reshape Social Security had failed.
(“Tried to privatize it. Couldn’t.” Bush rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.)
Now he has surrendered in what was probably his last chance of securing a legacy-making second-term domestic victory.
The desultory appearance in a college hallway here after a speech on Iraq may have marked the death of ambition in Bush's legislative agenda.
(“Yep. I’m desultory. I’m the Desultor-ator.”)
The paradigm shift that senior adviser Karl Rove saw after the 2004 election has now proved illusory. The Ownership Society that Bush promised to build in 2005 is rarely mentioned these days...
"Sand is flowing out of the hourglass," said Fred I. Greenstein, a Princeton University scholar on the presidency, who was struck by the gloomy tone of Bush's televised statement. "He looked much less like the kid on the cover of Mad magazine without a care. . . . “
(You know, for most people not looking so much like Alfred E. Neuman anymore would be considered a step *up.* But for this guy…)
(Greenstein continues his analysis of Bush:) “He looked very angry and almost having difficulty getting the sentences out…
(“I—You—They—aw, damn it all t’hell, anyhow!”)
“…That seems to me to contrast with some of the early stages" of his presidency.
(Yeah. Remember the old twinkle in his eye when he said merrily of US casualties in Iraq: “Bring ‘em on!” That inspired confidence in the troops. But these days…)
Bush emerged from reelection with four main domestic priorities for his second term, as identified by Rove and other aides: He planned to reinvent Social Security to allow investment of some funds in the stock market, overhaul the tax code from top to bottom, bring millions of illegal immigrants out of the shadows and impose tough new curbs on what he called excessive litigation. He is now almost zero-for-four.
(It ain’t over yet! He’s still got that “we’re goin’ to Mars” thing of his to pitch, ain’t he?)
Tax overhaul died when Bush took the report he commissioned and put it on a shelf because it would be too provocative.
(Shoot! I woulda love to have seen that. A report on tax cuts that HE thought was too disgusting to release publicly.)
Bush has lately sketched out a new agenda in areas such as energy and health care, and he may yet make progress on those in the 18 months he has left. But going forward, aides acknowledged, the once swaggering president will be in a defensive crouch.
(Huddled in a fetal ball behind the podium, Bush cried out: “Energy! Health care! That car I was talkin’ about for six years that runs on hydrogen! Mars!”)
His immediate domestic plans include imploring lawmakers to reauthorize his No Child Left Behind education program, while trying to stop Congress from expanding a children's health insurance program and, with it, the federal deficit.
(“Aw, come on! Continue to fund my meaningless unworkable big government program to defund public education, that’s muh only legacy, that and the meaningless unworkable war! And please don’t make me veto childrens’ health insurance before I go! Please! I implore thee!”)
…Bush said he was "encouraged" by what he called "hopeful signs" since the extra troops he sent arrived in Iraq. Yet even in this military setting, the audience responded politely and without much enthusiasm, withholding applause except for introductions until deep into the speech and posing a couple of tough questions after it was over.
(“Mr. President, how many more of our kids are you going to get killed before you admit this was a stupid, irresponsible, unnecessary war?” “I—I’m a very lonely president, you know. Muh wife doesn’t understand me any more…” Crowd: “AWWWW…”)
Aides tried to portray the defeat of the immigration legislation as a failure of Congress rather than of the president.
(Aides: (thowing a blanket over the shivering Bush) “Can’t you see the man is in PAIN? “Don’t those bastards in Congress have any FEELINGS?” “How much more has he got to suffer? He needs LOVE!”)
…White House aides bemoaned how little has been accomplished during the first six months of the Democratic Congress, noting that public approval of Congress has plummeted even lower than Bush's ratings. Unspoken in that critique was the fact that the immigration defeat was dealt largely by members of the president's party.
(“Goddamn Democrats—I mean--Republicans—I mean…Oh, I dunno what I mean…” (Breaks down, sobs. Sneaks a peek to see if anyone’s going to come up and throw their arms around him to comfort him. No one is. Sobs again.)