Monday, June 20, 2005



WASHINGTON, June 19 - Five months after President Bush was sworn in for another four years, his political authority appears to be ebbing, both within his own party, where members of Congress are increasingly if sporadically going their own way, and among Democrats, who have discovered that they pay little or no price for defying him.


On Monday, Mr. Bush will face another test of his clout, when the Republican-controlled Senate tries again to overcome Democratic opposition and confirm John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. And with his poll numbers sinking as voters grow more restive about Iraq and the economy, he faces additional big challenges in coming weeks and months, from legislative battles over energy, trade and immigration to the possibility of a divisive Supreme Court confirmation fight.


"The political capital he thought he had has dwindled to very little, and he overstated how much he had to begin with," said Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington.

"Congress is like Wall Street - it operates on fear and greed," Mr. Lichtman said. "The Democrats don't fear him anymore, and they're getting greedy, because they think they can beat him. The attitude you see among Republicans in Congress is, my lifeboat first."

In the last week, Mr. Bush has responded by lashing out at Democrats, casting them as obstructionists, a strategy that carries some risk given that it seems to acknowledge an inability by Republicans to carry out a governing platform. Searching as well for a more positive message, the administration, which has always been reluctant to acknowledge that events are not unfolding precisely as planned, has embarked on a public relations campaign intended to reassure Americans that Mr. Bush is attuned to their concerns.


But he has already had to postpone his next big initiative, an overhaul of the tax code. And barring some crisis that creates another rally-round-the-president effect, analysts said, Mr. Bush's best opportunity to drive the agenda may be past.

The last paragraph is a polite way of acknowledging what has always been the case - the only thing that ever pushed this guy's job approval rating above about 54% was war and terra.