On Friday at a joint press appearance with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Bush reiterated his strong stand against signing any war spending bill that includes a timeframe for withdrawal of the troops in Iraq. First, President Bush spoke about why he will veto the bill Congress passed, â€œWell, first of all, I haven’t vetoed the first bill yet. But I’m going to. And the reason why I’m going to is because members of Congress have made military decisions on behalf of the military. They’re telling our generals what to do. They’re withdrawing before we’ve even finished reinforcing our troops in Baghdad. They’re sending, in my judgment, a bad message to the Iraqis and to the enemy and, most importantly, to our military folks. So I made it clear I’d veto.â€
Then he sent a clear message to congressional Democrats, â€œI’m sorry it’s come to this. In other words, I’m sorry that we’ve had this, you know, the issue evolve the way it has. But, nevertheless, it is what it is and it will be vetoed and my veto will be sustained. And then the question is the way forward. And my suggestion is that — and I invite the leaders of the House and the Senate, both parties to come down soon after my veto, so we can discuss a way forward. If the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I’ll accept a timetable for withdrawal, I won’t accept one. I just don’t think it’s in the interest of our troops,â€ Bush said.
In essence, Bush is using the power of the presidency as a road block against doing what a majority of Americans want in Iraq. Usually presidents are astute enough not to use the powers of their office in ways that donâ€™t reflect the opinion of the majority of Americans. Although any president has the power to act outside of the popular will, the political consequences for this type of behavior are often disastrous for the individual and their party. For example, LBJâ€™s handling of the Vietnam War sent the Democratic Party into a tailspin that it didnâ€™t recover from until 1992. Hooverâ€™s handling of the Great Depression lead to almost two decades of federal Democratic dominance.
My point is that President Bush will probably win a test of wills with the Congress, because his will is his alone, not the collectivization of 535 individuals. However, his handling of Iraq is bound to have long term political consequences for both him and his party. Through his actions, he has stained his party with the legacy of a failed war. This is not an injury that fades quickly from the American psyche. So yes, in the short term this president will earn what he considers to be a political victory, but beneath the short term victory rests the hidden presence of a long term defeat. The defeat wonâ€™t just be attached to the name of George W. Bush, and it could also drag the GOP down for years to come.
Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com. Â His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics