There he was in the Rose Garden yesterday, looking and sounding quite plausible, a strong President standing firm against an overreaching Congress, restating his principles and throwing down the gauntlet for the mother of all legislative battles.
Why, then, does George Bush stir up memories of Saddam Hussein in his final days on that balcony, roaring defiance and firing his rifle at thin air just before disappearing to be found months later hiding in a hole?
The President’s confidence is based on the almost-unanimous backing so far of Congressional Republicans, but he seems unaware of how thin and tentative it is. Even true believer Robert Novak knows that, calling Bush “isolated” and everywhere talking heads like Sen. Richard Shelby are couching their support with caveats about time running out.
Bush has put his last chip, the competence of Gen. David Petraeus, on the table and the wheel is spinning. If Andrea Mitchell’s report of his meeting with Republican lawmakers is accurate, the General knows he has until the end of summer to show significant progress or Congressmen facing reelection next year will run for the hills.
As George Bush spends his vacation clearing brush at the ranch, does he have any sense of the ground shaking under his feet?