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A Power Outage At the White House
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By David Ignatius
Friday, April 13, 2007; Page A17

As political power ebbs from the Bush presidency, a number of changes are becoming visible around the world -- most of them unwelcome. Simply put, the White House is losing its ability to shape events.

President Bush's relentless focus on Iraq magnifies this problem. His almost daily comments on the war underscore just how much he has ransomed his presidency and the nation's security to the unlikely prospect of success in Iraq. And the monomania about Iraq distracts Bush and his advisers from other big issues that need attention.

What else is there to worry about? "A key question in assessing the risks to the outlook is whether the global economy would be able to 'decouple' from the United States were the latter to slow down more sharply than projected." This is from the latest World Economic Outlook report, prepared by the International Monetary Fund before this weekend's gathering of global bankers and finance ministers.

Rather than deferring to U.S. economic leadership, in other words, the global financiers are worrying about how to get out of the way if our pyramid of debt-financed consumer spending should topple. The IMF projects U.S. economic growth this year to be just 2.2 percent, below the average for advanced economies and less than half the projected growth for the world as a whole.

A telling sign of America's inability to solve chronic problems is the IMF's discussion of our addiction to oil -- something President Bush talks plenty about but lacks the political will or congressional support to change. The IMF has gathered some shocking statistics: U.S. gasoline consumption as a share of gross domestic product is nearly five times that in the other major industrialized countries; gasoline accounts for 43 percent of U.S. oil consumption vs. 15 percent in other countries; fuel efficiency in America is 25 percent lower than in the European Union and 50 percent lower than in Japan. No wonder the world doubts our seriousness on energy issues.

With the White House in decline, interest groups are gaining more clout to influence policy. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is working mightily to keep the U.S.-China relationship on track. But the administration recognized political reality this week in filing complaints with the World Trade Organization about Chinese piracy of intellectual property, drawing an expression of "deep regret and strong dissatisfaction" from Beijing. The New York Times, citing a China expert, reported that "Chinese officials appeared to be worried that President Bush was losing his ability to block protectionist moves in Congress."

Bush is also struggling to maintain a good working relationship with Russia, whose cooperation on the Iran nuclear issue is crucial. But here again, he suffers from his weakened political position at home. The plugged-in foreign policy Web site Swoop notes that administration officials want to help Russia join the WTO, but it cautions: "A difficulty here is that this requires congressional support. This may not be easy to secure given increasingly hostile attitudes to Russia on Capitol Hill."

Even the breakthrough trade and nuclear energy deal with India, arguably the administration's only big foreign policy success last year, is hostage to the president's declining support. Congress still hasn't passed the legislation necessary for the India package to go through. Supporters are hoping strong backing from key Democrats will save it, despite the White House's declining influence.

The most dangerous consequences of the Washington power vacuum may be in Iraq itself. The president's pleas for bipartisan support, coming late in the game, seem to be falling on deaf ears. He has lost the Democrats -- Sen. Joseph Biden all but declared defeat for the Bush troop-surge strategy this week -- and even the Republicans seem willing to give Bush's surge only provisional support, through this fall.

As bad as things are in Iraq, they may soon get worse. The focus on Baghdad security has led many analysts to overlook the growing risk of an explosion in the ethnically divided city of Kirkuk -- and even of a military clash between Iraqi Kurds and Turkey over control of the city. Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani warned last weekend that if Ankara tries to protect the Turkmen minority in Kirkuk, "then we will take action for the 30 million Kurds in Turkey." That reckless statement probably had Turkish generals reviewing their contingency plans for military intervention.

Here's the paradox: Many of Bush's international policies are sensible because they seek to preserve a measure of American influence in a world that doubts our leadership. But with his presidency in disarray, George Bush is increasingly unable to make these policies work.
 

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ah....but alas, we have hope!!:clap:

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Bush To Appoint Someone To Be In Charge Of Country
The Onion - October 12, 2005 | Issue 41•41

WASHINGTON, DC-In response to increasing criticism of his handling of the war in Iraq and the disaster in the Gulf Coast, as well as other issues, such as Social Security reform, the national deficit, and rising gas prices, President Bush is expected to appoint someone to run the U.S. as soon as Friday.

Bush presents his shortlist for the Secretary of the Nation post.
"During these tumultuous times, America is in need of a bold, resolute person who can get the job done," said Bush during a press conference Monday. "My fellow Americans, I assure you that I will appoint just such a person with all due haste."

The Cabinet-level position, to be known as Secretary of the Nation, was established by an executive order Sept. 2, but has remained unfilled in the intervening weeks.

"I've been talking to folks from all across this country, from Louisiana to Los Angeles, and people tell me the same thing: This nation needs a strong, compassionate leader," Bush said. "In response to these concerns, I'm making this a top priority. I will name a good, qualified person as soon as possible."

Among the new secretary's duties are preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States, commanding the U.S. armed forces, appointing judges and ambassadors, and vetoing congressional legislation. The secretary will also be tasked with overseeing all foreign and domestic affairs, including those relating to the economy, natural disasters, national infrastructure, homeland security, poverty, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The secretary will report directly to the president.

For weeks, members of both political parties have been urging Bush to fill the post.

"Every day the president waits is another day he's accountable for needless deaths at home and abroad, the stagnating economy, and the threat of terrorism," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. "This post is far too vital to be left vacant. Mr. President, there is no reason to delay."

"I applaud the president's decision to find a strong leader for our country, but it's imperative that he make his selection soon," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), adding that he and all Democrats hope to work closely with the new national executive.

"In the spirit of bipartisanship, we will welcome the new secretary," Reid said. "Together, we will strive for a new dawn of American politics, one unmarred by partisan bickering between Congress and the White House."

According to a nationwide poll conducted by the Cook Political Report, the majority of U.S. citizens find the question of national leadership to be highly significant, with 61 percent of respondents "strongly" believing that the country is suffering from a leadership vacuum. Fifty-four percent said they trusted Bush to find an appointee who will be able to effectively manage the country.

While many Beltway insiders have named senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) as likely candidates, White House sources revealed that Bush may be leaning toward a stalwart loyalist. The list reportedly includes fellow Yale graduates, Midland, TX business associates, and various GOP fundraisers with connections to the Bush family.

"Despite their inexperience in government, they've clearly passed the Bush character test," said a White House staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I think the president is looking for someone he's comfortable with and can trust, above all else. A [former FEMA director] Michael Brown type, or maybe even Brown himself."

Bush said the creation of the Secretary of the Nation post directly addresses the increasingly complex and sometimes overwhelming challenges facing the executive branch in the 21st century. Although he acknowledged that the tasks facing the new appointee will be extraordinary, Bush ended his announcement on a positive note.

"As your president, it is my duty to see this nation through any crisis, no matter how severe. And as your president, I pledge to you that I will find a man capable of doing just that," Bush said. "I will not-I repeat, I will not-let you down."
 
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