Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Emperor has no capital

A Truly Lame Duck

"The story of the 2004 intelligence reform bill just keeps getting sadder and sadder. House Republicans did grievous enough harm to this vital measure during the campaign. But then, pumped up with post-election hubris, they went even further in the lame-duck session of Congress and gave us all a depressing lesson in how narrow-minded politics and weak leadership can undermine what should have been a fairly easy triumph for bipartisanship.

Despite endless - and in some cases wrongheaded - compromises among Republican and Democratic negotiators, it proved impossible to make the reform plan weak enough to satisfy a core of right-wing House Republicans and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Now all hope for a decent piece of legislation seems lost.

We take Mr. Bush at his word when he says he lobbied hard to get the bill through. But if that's the case, his lieutenants had a peculiar way of respecting the election mandate that they keep insisting he's won.

The White House said the president contacted both Mr. Hunter and Mr. Sensenbrenner to urge them to compromise. The evidence suggests that either Mr. Bush was less than forceful in his pleas or the two veteran Republicans have a stunning lack of respect for the wishes of their newly re-elected chief executive. Mr. Hunter at one point rejected language written by Vice President Dick Cheney's lawyer. Mr. Sensenbrenner rejected a section of the bill even though it contained his own language.

Mr. Bush campaigned on the idea that he is the man to handle the aftermath of 9/11. But if he could not deliver a sound bill with the Democrats, most Republicans, the entire 9/11 commission, the 9/11 families and a lot of ordinary Americans backing him up, what will happen on something actually hard?"


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