Monday, February 05, 2007

President Bush at Democratic Meeting

The Republicans in Congress are still reluctant to hold George W. Bush accountable on his failing foreign policy. There is unlikely to be much change if Republicans keep rubber stamping the president and obstructing action in the Senate. Bush claims he's reaching out to the Democrats, and indeed Democrats are willing to listen. But President Bush has made it clear after six dismal years that we can only judge him by his actions, not his words. So far, he's failing in Iraq, he's ignoring his obligations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he has no energy or environmental policies that are realistic, he's ignoring healthcare, he's damaging the middle class and is indifferent to the needs and aspirations of the overwhelming majority of Americans. But make no mistake, many wealthy conservatives love George W. Bush and are indifferent to the damage he is doing to our democracy.

Richard Wolf and David Jackson of USA Today wrote an odd story about Bush's efforts to 'woo' the Democrats:
His speech Saturday at a House Democratic retreat was the latest effort to reach out to opposing party members, who felt widely ignored during six years of GOP dominance. It was his first visit to the annual retreat since 2001.

(snip)

Bush's immediate predecessors reached deals across the aisle. President Clinton worked with Republicans to overhaul welfare. The first President Bush raised taxes to get a major deficit reduction agreement with Democrats. President Reagan worked with Democrats to revamp the tax code.

None of them had so little time to get accustomed to a Congress run by the other party. To fix the long-term financing of Medicare and Social Security, Bush will have to get along with Democrats like he did as Texas governor in the 1990s.

Presidential historian Fred Greenstein of Princeton University said Bush can do it by reverting to "the Texas persona." He sees more of the affable Reagan than the obstinate Woodrow Wilson in Bush, who began his presidency socializing with the Democrats such as Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Others doubt Bush's ability to get major policies through a Democratic Congress. Republican John Kasich, who as House Budget Committee chairman helped craft a 1997 deficit reduction package with Clinton, said Bush lacks leverage. "People are not afraid of George Bush," he said.

Democrat Leon Panetta, a former Clinton chief of staff, said there's more bad blood to overcome now. "There has to be a degree of trust that you can work with the other side without getting a knife in your back," Panetta said.

(snip)

Democrats on the receiving end of the outreach give the administration better grades for style than substance. Still, Maloney said there is only one alternative: "Stalemate. No one wants that."

(snip)

While the meetings have been cordial, Democrats say, little progress has been made. "With all of the progress in terms of discussion," Rangel said, "we haven't agreed on a darn thing so far."

We have deficits as far as the eye can see. We have a tax policy ridiculously tilted to the very wealthy. We have a profoundly dysfunctional foreign policy. Despite record corporate profits, the economy as far as most Americans are concerned is stagnant. Where does one begin if the Bush is unwilling to admit he has made blunders of historic proportion? What does one do when his Republicans allies enable his nonsense?

Deeds, not words, are going to have to be the proof of any change on the part of Bush. President Bush's wooing is a bit like the kid who has stolen cookies from the cookie jar who turns to the Democrats and says he'll give them some cookie crumbs if they'll forget the whole thing and not notice the smoke coming from the kitchen. Of course, the situation is far more serious than that.

In the end, how does a failed president and a failed Republican Party woo the American people in any sense that is real without changing course? We all know it's likely to be a long two years.

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