Is Bush a Lame Duck?

Jim Rutenburg argues that the collapse of the immigration bill compromise mains that President Bush’s “ability to push his agenda has faded to the point where he can fairly be judged to have entered his lame duck period.” That’s possibly right. Certainly, his approval ratings are dismal and his most important foreign and domestic policy initiatives, the Iraq War and fixing the illegal immigration mess, have created fissures even within the Republican base. And the fact that the campaign to find Bush’s successor has started unusually early hasn’t helped.

On the other hand, the immigration compromise was almost universally disliked and threatened to split the GOP coalition. Maybe its death was a blessing for the president.

Absent a miraculous and sudden reversal of fortune in Iraq, it’s hard to see how the president gets above 50 percent again in the polls. It’ll take some pretty serious miscalculations on the part of Nancy Pelosi and/or Harry Reid to turn the momentum in Bush’s favor. Newt Gingrich provided such a reprieve for Bill Clinton in 1995, so it’s not inconceivable. Still, it’s the war, not his inability to forge a compromise on an immigration bill, that will decide Bush’s fate.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. superdestroyer says:

    Not only is President Bush a lame duck but the Republican party is a lame duck. The Republicans were destined to be made irrelevant by the changing demographics of the U.S. President Bush did every thing he could be make the demise come faster. From open borders, expansion of virtually every government program, incompetent administrators, and deficit spending, President Bush has basically guaranteed that anyone who is interested in a career in politics must avoid the Republicans at all cost.

  2. gazzer says:

    That’s a very thoughtful comment, superdestroyer.
    I guess that means that political parties don’t adapt over time, and that we are now headed for one-party domination by the democrats for the forseeable future.

  3. davod says:


    The only problem with your arguments is that half of the Republican politicians problems are generated because they took the Democratic view on immigration reform.

    The Dems who took Republican seats in the last election did so by appearing more hawkish on the war and immigration than the incumbents.

  4. JKB says:

    I wouldn’t rule George Bush out just yet. He isn’t much concerned with being popular. He still has the bully pulpit and can push things he believes in, like immigration reform. These things may not get enacted but everyone will have to stake out a position. And all but Bush are working to get elected or re-elected. The “elite” Republicans seem to be abandoning him so why should he keep them from having to reveal themselves. He can run headlong toward pushing a Democratic position and see if the Democrats really do believe in that position.

    Most Presidents ending their terms were concerned with at least one last big win, Bush doesn’t seem to be that way. Someone leaving a job and not concerned with going along to get along can push outlandish ideas. Some of which might be the change needed. In the end it is the others who have play to the polls, Bush can play to the future.

  5. bluhawkk says:

    The Dem’s in ’94 were deficient of ideas and dumped. The Repub’s will be dumped because of all the incompetencies mentioned by superd. The rise of the Dem’s is because of those incompetencies. The Dem’s have shown they have nothing to offer except their ability to pander by buying votes through even more massive spending than that inflicted by Bush & Co. When the massive taxes hikes come under the next administration, you better hold on to your wallet
    The political class in this country is a pathetic.

  6. Martin Terman says:

    gazzer, your statement about parties failing to adapt is more ironic than sarcastic, given the origins of the modern Republican Party. The modern Republican party was in fact at one time a third party formed due to people being unhappy with the Whig Party, which was the opposition party to the Democrats at the time. In time, the Whig Party collapsed and most of its base was snapped up by the Republicans. The fact is that American history is littered with the corpses of what were once major political parties who managed to elect people to high office such as the Presidency. If parties would always adapt to the times, we’d still have the Federalist Party.

    If the Republican Party collapsed, some new party would form to take its place or more following history, a bunch of disaffected Republicans now would start to build a new party to appeal to the conservative base, and would be followed by defections from the voter base as well as current Republicans unhappy with their party.

  7. just me says:

    I think Bush was pretty much a lame duck the minute the democrats took over congress.

    I don’t think the immigration bill has anything to do with it.

    I think superdestroyer’s argument that the GOP is a lame duck is pretty stupid though. If the voters thought they didn’t like one party rule with the GOP in charge of congress and the White House, I think it is doubtful they are going to like the democrats, especially given that the average voter is well to the right of the majority of democrat politicians.

    I do think the GOP probably won’t see much power over the next several years, and I strongly suspect, that ’08 is going to be bad for the GOP, but I don’t think it is going to stay that way for long.

  8. George says:

    Think you mean “means” there in that first sentence, sport. 😉


  9. superdestroyer says:

    The number of really conservative voters is not enough to carry a national political party. The Democratic Party gets 90% of the black vote, 75% of the Hispanic vote, and 65% of the Asian vote. Those groups are growing faster than whites in the U.S. The Republican party has become irrelevant in the eastern states north of Virginia.

    Ask yourself what is more likely, that the Republicans start getting a higher percentage of minority voters or start getting more 55% of the white vote. Bush has basically destroyed the chance of the Republicans being the party that most whites want to support.

    To those who say that party’s adapt, look up how Republicans perform in Chicago, Manhattan, or Los Angeles. There is no position, strategy, or idea that is going to increase the performance of the Republican party is those cities. For parties to adapt, there has to be demographic groups big enough to appeal to when they do adapt. Such demographic groups just do not exist after President Bush destroyed any credibility that the Republican party should have on fiscal issues.

  10. Anjin-San says:

    One should never be too quick to write off the opposition party. It was not long ago the the GOP was crowing about “the permanent majority”. In the aftermath of Watergate, the GOP appeared to be all done. It did not take long for Reagan to bring them back.

  11. just me says:

    One should never be too quick to write off the opposition party.

    Exactly, writing off the opposition party generally leads to over confidence, which leads to the belief that you are invinisble and don’t need to worry about accountability, which invariably leads to corruption.

    The GOP not only started writing off the opposition party, they also started heading down the road to corruption with the idea that nobody would hold them accountable.

    Not to mention that the US voter doesn’t tolerate one party rule of all three branches for very long-Bush’s first 6 years in the white house with a GOP controlled congress were the exception not the rule.

  12. superdestroyer says:

    There are constraints in how much a political party can change to try to stay relevant. The Republican party has not been able to change itself enough to remain competitive in Mass, NYC, DC, Chicago, or LA. Local elections are dominate by Democrats with the Republicans being a laughable afterthought. Corruption, incompetence, high taxes, or high crime has not been enough to make the Republican party competitive in those areas.

    As the demographics of the rest of the U.S. begin to resemble the current demographics of DC, Chicago, or LA, there will be nothing that can happen that will keep the Republican relevant.

    If anyone has a strategy that will increase the number of blacks and Hispanic that vote Republicans without losing more white conservative voters, they would be rich selling the idea.

  13. Pragma7 says:

    Citing the growing number of Hispanic voters is begging the very issue that is infuriating many whites, blacks, and Asians: Illegal immigration and its progeny are fundamentally altering our culture, social structures, and economy. Clearly, if put to a vote of the people of this nation, the immigration bill would have been defeated in no uncertain terms. Alternatively a bill to rigidly control our borders, fine and prosecute those who hire illegal workers, and radically increase deportation of illegal aliens who commit crimes while here would pass resoundingly. Our politicians – or elite ruling over-class – are purposefully trying to create a voting underclass that could – in their minds – cement them into office. The underclass voters created artificially by this bill, or one like it, would be beholden to government hand-outs and ‘programs’. The over-class would have successfully diluted the vote of the lower and middle classes to the point their ability to tax and transfer would effectively be permanent. This whole exercise is about power and money.