Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bush will overreach at his peril

Bush will overreach at his peril
By Robert Kuttner
Boston Globe
December 15, 2004
PRESIDENTS get into trouble in their second terms, especially when they interpret reelection as a huge mandate. The details differ, but most of them involve overreaching.
Franklin Roosevelt was overwhelmingly reelected in 1936, and almost immediately overreached in his scheme to pack the Supreme Court. Ronald Reagan won reelection by a landslide in 1984, but found that his tax cuts were creating serious deficit problems, bogged down in the Iran-Contra scandal, and ended losing the Senate in 1986. And Bill Clinton, reelected in 1996, imagined that he could treat the Oval Office as a boudoir.
What of Bush? His bungling of the nomination of Bernard Kerik to head the Homeland Security Department -- there was much more than a nanny scandal that would have led to a messy confirmation battle -- is pure second-term hubris. And there is a lot more to come.
In the wake of John Kerry's defeat -- and I mean wake in both senses -- Democrats have been going through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's famous stages of grieving, including denial, anger, and depression. They particularly need to avoid her final stage -- acceptance. For Bush is strikingly vulnerable.
Consider his big plans for 2005: Social Security privatization, tax "simplification," making tax cuts permanent, and a forward strategy for US power in the Middle East and the world.
Every one of these is shaky....