The Note: Bush fatigue


Recapping some lessons from a busy holiday week on the trail: There aren't enough festivals and parades to go around in Iowa. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is looking skyward (!) at the campaign kitty of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., doesn't care about his fund-raising numbers, except when he does. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., wants to clone Paul Simon. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., wants to clone her husband (and Bob Barker just may be available to serve as a double, though she'd like to lose the Marc Rich baggage).

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is just itching for this campaign to get personal (and the Clintons wouldn't mind much either). Former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., has delayed his announcement so long that his honeymoon ended before his campaign is even official. And President Bush's commutation of "Scooter" Libby hasn't quite worked out the way he hoped.

It will be the president's relationship (or what's left of it) with Congress on display this week in Washington, with the Libby move combining with the Iraq war, the US attorneys scandal, Guantanamo Bay, and a raft of spending bills to set up a multi-faceted clash. With the White House losing friends by the day, it's gut-check time for the president: If he doesn't give an inch or two now, he may win temporary victories, but he'll be setting himself up to be steamrolled for the remainder of his presidency. His last 18 months will be a blur of investigations, accusations, and paralysis -- and that's not even counting the damage once the GOP presidential candidates bring out their knives.

This president sure looks like he has senioritis. He keeps his friend from jail (but in a half-measure sort of way that enraged those on both sides of the aisle) and is giving no indication that he'll budge in his numerous confrontations with the Democratic Congress. "Executive privilege," says the White House, in forbidding former aides to testify before Congress on the US attorneys matter, The Washington Post's Peter Baker reported Sunday. The Democrats may well lose this fight, who really loses? Remember which side would just as well see these issues linger right up to Election Day.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said on ABC's "This Week" that Democrats are going to continue to push the issue even as he holds a hearing on the Libby commutation -- and Conyers let the I-word slip past his lips while saying that he'll consider holding White House officials in contempt of Congress. "We're hoping that as the cries for the removal of both Cheney and Bush now reach 46 percent and 58 percent, respectively, for impeachment that we could begin to become a little bit more cooperative," Conyers told George Stephanopoulos.

As for Iraq, as the Bush administration seeks to redefine "success," the drip-drip of Republican defections is emboldening Democrats to press harder. "We haven't done enough," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tells The New York Times' Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny. Here come two weeks' worth of votes: "Democrats are increasingly confident they can assemble majority opposition to administration policies," Hulse and Zeleny write. If they can't, and the debate becomes little more than another platform for the Democrats who would be president, who are the true political losers? See above.

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