Monday, December 05, 2005

Too late 

Michael Shedlock, talking about Bush's delay of tax reform:
Has anyone in history used up political capital so quickly with nothing to show for it?
  • Social Security Reform - Dead On Arrival

  • Tax Reform - Never got out of the gate

  • Torture - Bush and Cheney split with McCain and openly support torture

  • Iraq - Bush plan to "stay the course" is failing

  • Immigration Reform - Republican infighting

  • Polls - Bush support at 35% or so
One year in his second term and Bush is already the lamest of lame ducks.
I'll leave the Iraq part of this out, but let's look at the economic policy points. As I was discussing on NARN with Captain Ed this past weekend, a problem the Bush Administration has had comes from lacking an economic policy spokesperson. The Clinton White House had Bob Rubin as Mr. Inside and a variety of Mr/Ms Outsides from Laura Tyson and Robert Reich to Larry Summers. Who does the Bush Administration have? John Snow, last seen fawning over Bono? Larry Lindsey, who's most notable achievement was to be the first economist ever fired for being too heavy? Greg Mankiw, who had to apologize for giving one of his principles lectures to the press? It's quite likely you haven't heard of these people, and that's the point. You might have ended up hearing about Ben Bernanke as head of the Council of Economic Advisors, but he has gone off to the Federal Reserve now and can't speak for the administration further.

And, as I said as well on Saturday, expecting Bush to speak on these issues is not going to happen. Bruce Bartlett pointed out fifteen months ago that this was a strategy bound to fail:
As the Republican National Convention approaches, pressure is building on President Bush to lay out a second-term agenda. With John Kerry running no worse than even in most polls, many Republicans believe that Bush needs a big idea to galvanize his supporters. I think they are probably going to be disappointed.

The fact is that very few presidents ever have a meaningful second-term agenda. First of all, they don�t need one to get reelected because they cannot run for a third term. Second, they don�t have the time or the political clout to get anything big through Congress because they are lame ducks.

Reagan managed to get one through by planning on it in his first term and having a consensus for tax reform in place before his re-election. Without an effective spokesperson and waiting to start the discussion until after re-election, Bush lost what leverage he had (even less than most second-termers, given his VP is not a candidate for the presidency in 2008.) And as long as Iraq and immigration are there occupying news hours and Congressional debate, there is not going to be time to get this done.

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