As I look out into the political world, I'm starting to see a similar pattern cropping up in President Bush that I remember emerging during President Reagan and Bush 41's term which is that certain events emerge that prevents them from getting their various domestic, foreign and economic policies pushed through congress. Now I know that Reagan was able to push through a restructuring of the tax system where we had a 10% and 28% bracket introduced, sliming down government via the by cutting certain budgets, the beginnings of the Soviet implosion, Soviets withdrawing from Afghanistan, and the appointment and confirmation of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Scalia (I surely wished we could have had Bork rather than Kennedy but beggars cant be choosers.) and GHW Bush pushed through the initial groundwork of NAFTA(I know Clinton was the one who got credit but President Bush 41 pushed the idea formally thought up by Reagan), nominated Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (Can't say same about Souter), pushed Saddam out of Kuwait but they could have pushed through their agenda had they not stumbled in the weeds of a second term and what could be considered a third term via George H.W. Bush. No matter who's in the White House they seem to come in with all of the energy much like someone who has ingested a great amount of Red Bull or Starbuck's Double Shot Espressos but after so long they run out of these elixers and get bogged down in the political marshes known as Washington D.C. and throw aside some of the desired goals to just survive.
The same thing seems to apply with the second term of President Bush. He was riding a marvelous caravan of success with the passage of No Child Left Behind (I wished he hadn't compromised so much with Ole Ted), Tax Cuts, defeating the Taliban and Saddam thus freeing some 50 million people from tyranny and handing them the baton of democracy, Medicare prescription Drug Coverage (I'd say it was a wasteful boondoggle and confusing for old folks), Increased Defense budgets, the appointment of Judge John Roberts as Chief Justice and a yet to be named judge in the mold of Scalia and Thomas, CAFTA, several bilateral free trade agreements not to mention the countless other policies that most politicians would trade their whole career and fortune for. The only problem is that the President seems to have lost the big mo in his second term and will probably see his policies like the restructuring of Social Security, the elimination of the death tax(This could happen), Restructuring of Tax system to either a Flat Tax or Consumption Tax, Effective Energy Policy like building more refineries (throughout the US rather than Gulf Coast) and domestic drilling in ANWR.(This could also go through what with the results of Katrina and Rita). Though I have problems with these policies being tossed aside in the bog of D.C. to lighten the load, I have a bigger beef with President Bush turning into a Republican with the talk of Reagan, the spending and approach like that of LBJ's Great Society. You only have to look at his spend, spend, spend policy towards Katrina and the federal government as a whole (I'll give him credit for a Gulf Opportunity Zone (should be more like an Enterprise Zone with 18% Flat Tax), vouchers towards education, a more Faith Based approach, reducing pork from Energy, Highway and other programs.) to realize that we're dealing with the current President. I think Reagan put it best when he noted that "Saying Congress spends like a drunken sailor is an insult to drunken sailors because drunken sailors spend their own money." I just wish that President Bush would pull out the veto pen or take out his axe towards the budget like Reagan did and tell his fellow Republicans to cut out the crap but then again he could prevent this bleeding pig syndrome if he stopped getting up before the American people and busting open the treasury like a pinata to ensure the media and possible voters stay on your side. I know he is a man who hates to see anyone going through hell or people doing without but he should realize that LBJ tried to win the "War on Poverty" through similar policies and the only thing he had to show after forty years and $6.7 trillion we still have poor folks in public housing still dependent on Uncle Sam. I just hope President Bush will look over Marvin O'lasky's wonderful book The Tragedy of American Compassion to see where hyperactive government spending can have very detrimental affects on the folks receiving help.
Aside from President Bush getting lost in the tall grass of the second term thus by led away from some guideposts the Republican House and Senate seem to have been sucked into the power trap where the party in power seems to get used to running the show that they get so comfortable that they become flabby and soft and aren't as fine tuned like a newly built Cadillac. They'll keep on running down the highway passing the Democrats on Bill Clinton's Bridge to the 21st Century but will probably need a tune up and some repairs along the way. I think Jonah Goldberg pretty much summed this up with his current Goldberg File over at National Review Online when he noted:
In short our moderate Republicans are the responsible Democrats. The real Democrats are just back-up singers for guys like Specter and McCain (they let Lieberman do an occasional solo). This is what happens to majority parties (remember the "Boll Weevil Democrats"?). They become the locus of all politics while the runt party sits like a highwayman, hoping to pounce on the weak stragglers every now and then. And, the GOP as a governing party is becoming bloated, self-absorbed, and lazy. Democrats think this means the GOP will lose control of Congress. I don't see it. When the Democrats ran the show, their congressmen lived high on the hog for 40 years, lamenting that the only thing you can't buy with free stamps or kited checked are hookers (I suspect AbScam was really just a way to get loose cash to get around this obstacle).Hopefully President Bush will find the energy and extra oomph that he used after September 11th 2001 and during his re-election to get some of his promises he made accomplished. Sometimes even his supporters can "misunderestimate" him. We'll see.
In other words, my real fear is that this is as good as it gets. Conservatives may have to look forward to years of incremental victories, less-than-incremental setbacks, cronyism, hypocrisy, rent-seeking, and the sort of pragmatic compromise which inevitably grinds down intellectual joy and entrepreneurialism. This isn't because Republicans are worse than Democrats (by any historical measure Democrats have been vastly more corrupt than Republicans — though Republicans are better at getting caught). It's because that's the nature of the beast.
Running things is better than the alternative, but some days that just doesn't feel like it's good enough.