Bush ea­ger to put ’06 be­hind him; tough year saw polls plunge, Hill lost

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

Pres­i­den­tBush­was­soea­ger­tobe donewith­2006thath­elopped­offthe fi­nal 10 days in his year-end press con­fer­ence last month, an­swer­ing one ques­tion as if it were al­ready 2007 and he were al­ready deal­ing with­the­newDemo­crat­icCongress.

The year that saw his poll ap­proval rat­ings fall to new lows, saw Congress back him off his veto threat on the Dubai ports deal and forced him to is­sue his first veto, on stem-cell re­search, ended with Democrats’win­ningoutright­con­trolof Congress.

But he also won con­fir­ma­tion of a sec­ond jus­tice to the Supreme Court and won con­gres­sional ap­proval of de­ten­tion and mil­i­tary tri­als for de­tainees in the war on ter­ror.

Just as im­por­tant, the United States helped Bri­tain foil an­other ma­jor ter­ror­ist plot to hi­jack air­planes this past sum­mer, and the fifth full year since Septem­ber 11 is about­to­ex­pire­with­outan­oth­er­suc­cess­ful ter­ror­ist at­tack on U.S. soil.

At the same time, though, the sit­u­a­tion in Iraq de­te­ri­o­rated, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion made only halt­ing progress in us­ing diplo­macy to try to con­tain Iran’s and North Korea’s nu­clear pro­grams.

Over­all, it was a year of steps for­ward fol­lowed al­most al­ways by steps back, and vice versa, par­tic­u­larly on do­mes­tic mat­ters:

On im­mi­gra­tion, the pres­i­dent de­ployed thou­sands of Na­tional Guard troops to the border and signedtheSe­cureFenceAct­to­build about 700 miles of wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico border, but his ef­fort to win a broader im­mi­gra­tion bill that in­cluded cit­i­zen­ship rights for most il­le­gal aliens was stymied.

On trade, the ad­min­is­tra­tion won­pas­sage­of­sev­er­als­mall­er­free­trade agree­ments — with Bahrain and Oman — but saw the Doha round of World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion talks break down over the sum­mer.

The Supreme Court ruled Mr. Bush did not have the uni­lat­eral au- thor­ity to es­tab­lish mil­i­tary com­mis­sions to try de­tainees in the war on ter­ror, but in an elec­tion­sea­son cam­paign-style push, the pres­i­dent wran­gled the author­ity from Congress.

James Pfiffner, a pro­fes­sor at Ge­orgeMa­sonUniver­si­ty­whos­tud­ies the pres­i­dency, said that rep­re­sented a ma­jor vic­tory for Mr. Bush and for the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

“No pre­vi­ous pres­i­dent has sought this type of power from Congress,” Mr. Pfiffner said. “Pres­i­dent Bush won an­other bat­tle for ex­ec­u­tive power. Fu­ture court chal­lenges may un­der­mine part of this law, but in the mean­time, Pres­i­dent Bush can push his dis­cre­tion to the lim­its with con­gres­sional ap­proval.”

Mr. Pfiffner said the con­gres­sional elec­tions, in which the pres­i­dent’s party lost con­trol of both cham­bers and most of the can­di­dates Mr. Bush cam­paigned for in the fi­nal days went down to de­feat, is­the­biggest­po­lit­i­calset­back­forthe pres­i­dent.

Look­ing back dur­ing his year- end press con­fer­ence, Mr. Bush ac­knowl­edged it was “a dif­fi­cult year for our troops and the Iraqi peo­ple,” but said here at home the econ­omy “con­tin­ues to post strong gains.”

Asked to look at his legacy, Mr. Bush did not find any­thing in 2006, and had to reach fur­ther back in his ten­ure, choos­ing to high­light 2003’s over­haul of Medi­care, 2001’s No ChildLeftBe­hind­e­d­u­ca­tion­bil­land the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

Mr.Bush­hadend­ed2005with­ap­proval rat­ings at about 45 per­cent, and with one De­cem­ber 2005 poll even putting him at the 50 per­cent mark.

And the new year be­gan with some good news for the pres­i­dent when the Se­nate voted to con­firm fed­eral Judge Samuel A. Al­ito Jr. to the Supreme Court.

But as 2006 went on, he stum­bled, los­ing a bat­tle with his own party in Congress over trans­fer­ring man­age­ment of six U.S. ports from a Bri­tish com­pany to a staterun com­pany from Dubai.

Congress also forced him into his first veto, on a mea­sure to ex­pand fed­eral fund­ing for em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search. That veto was sus­tained by a vote in the House.

His ap­proval rat­ings slid steadily to­ward 30 per­cent, with just one sus­tained uptick in Septem­ber as he went on the of­fen­sive to win new tools in the war on ter­ror. That boost ended with the reve­la­tion that Repub­li­can Rep. Mark Fo­ley of Florida sent sex­u­ally ex­plicit mes­sages to a male teen in the House page pro­gram.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials do list a se­ries of ac­com­plish­ments, in­clud­ing pas­sage of bills to boost port se­cu­rity, prepa­ra­tions for a flu pan­demic, in­creased Pell Grant fund­ing, and re­newal of the Mag­nu­son-Steven­sAct­that­gov­erns­ma­rine con­ser­va­tion and the fish­ing in­dus­try.

The big-ticket items the ad­min­is­tra­tion points to are re­newal of the Pa­triot Act, pas­sage of the Se­cure Fence Act and the grant of author­ity for mil­i­tary tri­bunals for de­tainees.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.