THE BLOG

Will Dems Be the Remedy for the President's Second Termitus?

Conventional wisdom suggests that part of the president's recent woes are the natural residue of second-termitus. I am not convinced.

While it is true historically that second terms have not been kind, President Bush's problems are more systemic and therefore pose the potential to be more insurmountable.

It is quite understandable that supporters of the president would offer the Reagan example as the most plausible course of action.

At the depths of the Iran-Contra Affair in 1987, Reagan apologized to the American people, changed his cabinet, and ultimately left office with a 68 percent approval rating.

This is obviously easier said than done.

For starters, this president appears to be allergic to not only the concept of contrition, but of humility and honest self-reflection.

There is a difference between hubris and confidence. Confidence can still lead one down the path of modesty, while hubris demands that one stay the course in spite of all warnings and facts to the contrary.

The larger challenge, however, facing the president is that we are still metaphorically in the first term.

After his reelection, the president offered a radical agenda that would have significantly changed the direction of the country. But unlike Reagan, who had not staked his presidency on Iran-Contra, the president's raison d'etre is the war in Iraq.

As the war unravels so does the Administration.

The president is experiencing the difficult lesson that truth has a stubborn way of hanging around. In the words of Gandhi: "Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear."

This was a war of choice in which the president was ultimately given the benefit of the doubt. But the methodical pace of truth is beginning to shine on the Administration's first term decisions.

It is convenient for supporters of the war to contend that the president believed, as did the previous administration, that Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear program.

Robert Einhorn, Assistant Secretary of State to President Clinton, testified before the Senate Government Affairs Committee, March 1, 2002 states:

"Within four or five years, [Iraq] could have the capability to threaten most of the Middle East and parts of Europe with missiles armed with nuclear weapons containing high-enriched uranium produced indigenously. Within that same period, it could threaten U.S. territory with nuclear weapons delivered by non-conventional means."

Assuming that everyone did believe that Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear program or possessed weapons of mass destruction---which is factually inaccurate---why was it necessary for the White House to obsess with the criticisms of former Ambassador Joe Wilson?

Why would the Administration on September 8, 2002 leak bogus information about Saddam's nuclear program to the New York Times' Judith Miller---that appeared on the paper's front page---then have several key administration officials citing the story on the Sunday talk shows?

But politics may persevere enough to slow down the pace of truth so that the president can regain his political footing.

The Democrats attention-grabbing ploy, which placed the Senate into close session forcing the Republican-controlled Senate to agree to provide an update into the investigation into prewar intelligence used by the Administration was a positive first step.

For Democrats to effectively push for the truth, would it not also require that they have their own day of reckoning?

Sixty-two percent of Senate Democrats voted to give the president the power to go to war against Iraq. Several of those Senators now have their eye on a presidential run in 2008.

It is difficult to see how Senate Democrats can lead a collective exploration for the truth if roughly 62 percent of their members must rely on being misled or incompetent as justification for any ex post facto remorse they may be experiencing.

Some Senate Democrats, who originally supported the war, maintain that with everything they know today, they would not change their vote.

If so, perhaps claims of the president's political demise have been greatly exaggerated.