Bush is Not a Lame Duck
The Los Angeles Times editorial board is surprised that, a little over four months into his second four year term, President Bush is not behaving as if he’s a lame duck.
When President Bush first latched onto mountain biking as his favored form of exercise, he plowed over rough terrain with a distinctive technique: Even when he pedaled uphill, he refused to shift to a lower gear. That is an apt metaphor for the way Bush is making his way through the second term of his presidency: No matter how steep the climb to his goals — to revamp Social Security, to win confirmation for his choice for United Nations ambassador, to bring stability to Iraq — Bush is pushing on, as if heedless of the enormous obstacles he faces in Congress, around the country and across the globe.
Bush’s doggedness is one of many assets he has retained in his second term, and he has needed it of late as his top priorities have run into heavy weather in Congress. Democratic critics see Bush’s recent troubles as evidence that he has become a lame duck who has lost leverage with lawmakers. But many analysts — including foes of the White House — say it is premature to write off a president who holds a formidable array of political and institutional tools — and who is determined to use them. “I don’t think he is a lame duck,” said Nelson Polsby, a political scientist at UC Berkeley and a Bush critic. “A lame duck is harmless, someone who people disregard because they think he can’t be harmful. He still has plenty of potentiality to make trouble.”
Bush’s ability to influence U.S. foreign policy remains largely unchallenged. He is poised to leave a decisive imprint on the Supreme Court. Among Republicans, he is even more popular than was the icon of American conservatism, Ronald Reagan, at this point in his second term. And despite tensions with the Republican-led Congress, Bush still enjoys a deep reservoir of goodwill among fellow Republicans for having led the party to strong congressional gains in the 2002 and 2004 elections. “That’s an incredibly powerful base to be standing on to negotiate and work with Congress,” said GOP pollster Bill McInturff. Still, he said, “does it mean this is the happiest time in his presidency? No.”
Quite right. Honestly, the idea that a second term president is a lame duck is absurd. Indeed, it would argue against ever electing a president to a second term (which, of course, would render first term presidents “lame ducks”).
The term is more properly applied to the period from election day until inauguration day, when a successor has been elected and the old president is just finishing out his run.