By A. B. Stoddard - 12/13/07 09:19 AM EST
Yesterday the annual Christmas video starring Barney the dog was released and in it you will find a Bush, the happy warrior, out on the White House lawn, smiling though a narrative on the national parks he recites for his Scottish Terrier.
When all hit bottom at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue many months ago, numerous inner-sanctum Bushies packed up their Texas memorabilia from their White House desks and fled, one who feels sore even wrote a tell-a-little book. But the remaining core staff, with some talented new recruits, can be credited with turning the tide for the beleaguered 43rd President. By remembering the GOP base hates federal spending, and realizing they may never get another Iraq-free window before the next election in which to tout their fiscal discipline, Bush administration officials have sent their boss on a rampage with his veto pen. He is driving Congress mad. At the same time he is looking for ways, unrelated to the business of Congress, to look like a problem solver: last week he negotiated a plan to freeze interest rates on subprime mortgages to help those affected by the crisis. If he racks up enough proposals like it Bush may be able to dust off that legacy he shelved during his darkest days earlier this year.
Add to the serious policy questions a few all-gain-no-pain moves like clearing air space for Thanksgiving travelers and inviting Danny Pearl's parents to the White House to celebrate Hannukah and you have to notice someone is finally thinking straight at the White House. Bush has even been out raising money for Republicans, quietly and with a bag over his head perhaps, but reportedly it is a record sum.
With Iraq on the back burner, and the surge having succeeded in quieting not only violence in Anbar and Baghdad but the Democratic party as well, Bush is taking on Democratic leaders in Congress, chiding them for unfinished business and irresponsible spending. The Democrats are seething as bill after bill gets blocked by Senate Republicans and Bush tries to muffle his giggles. Having spent all year focused on Iraq, Democrats have yet to hone their post-surge strategy and each week they fail to find one is another week that helps Bush.
Now Democrats have backed themselves in a corner, jammed against the Christmas deadline to pass another monster omnibus spending bill, and Bush find himself with the upper hand once again. Democrats are trying to wedge a patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax and other carrots into the package but because it contains war spending Bush gets to keep talking about those furlough notices the Pentagon will soon have to put it the mail.
That said, Bush will likely preside over another damaging loss for Republicans next year, one that could set the party back many years. All of the polls and trends – about the importance of health care to voters, the loss of consumer confidence and a majority of voters believing the economy is bad and getting worse, Hispanic voters leaving the GOP and supporting Democrats, a majority of voters wanting less money spent on the two wars and more spent on pressing domestic concerns – favor the Democrats winning the White House and growing their majorities in Congress. In the House Democrats have outraised Republicans at an historic pace of 14-1. In the Senate Republicans have 21 seats to defend, some of them now open and favorable to Democrats. In the end it's a numbers game and it looks awfully grim.
But why think about that now? Barney has become a junior park ranger, according to the video, it's Christmas, and today is the first day of the rest of Bush's presidency.