Jack Kevorkian was released from prison last Friday, presumably recruited to put the Bush administration out of its misery. The same day, the White House meltdown continued with the departure of long-time aide and spokesman, Dan Bartlett, whose familiar quotations will be missed. The budding blossoms of spring have done little to warm the winter of Bushian discontent.
And on that selfsame day, Ms. Peggy Noonan penned a woeful plaint at Opinion Journal bewailing the damage inflicted by the sitting President upon the Republican base. She uses the word “sunder” three times in the body of the text and her editors add a bonus fourth in the subtitle. I have occasionally been a griper myself, though not a mourning Noonanite. But disaffected Republicans everywhere are spewing: Bush is getting acid on base more than Al Kaline.
Is there no chance of lightening the sundering? Has Curious George (so dubbed on a memorable TAS cover) given up the fight and become The Man in the Yellow Hat?
One thing is clear. Victories have been hard to come by. His last triumphant moment, it seems, came post-election in November 2004 when he started counting his political capital in public at a press conference, instead of muffling like Midas. Since then he has watched it dwindle like a bad investment. Well, at least there were two generous dividend payments in the person of Justices Roberts and Alito. What he lacks — psychologically and politically — are signposts of genuine achievement.
Clinton was in much the same boat, wearing the same cap size, at this point in his tenure, if for other reasons. He handled it fairly well by setting mere survival as the goal, figuring if he lasted to the end he could always pad his resume afterward as he had padded it beforehand. He wisely, if cynically, told himself: “You made your bed, now lie about it.” It worked. He gets everything he ever wanted: the money, the girls, the phoney-baloney philanthropist aura and the left-wing gaggle of revisionist historians working overtime.
Yet even Clinton was not immune to the most pernicious second-term syndrome of all: the miraculous policy coup that will leave history gasping. Do the one big thing and they will forget all the botched small things. In Bill’s case, he thought his bedroom eyes could hypnotize Arafat into buying a life supply of Israel Bonds. Instead Yassir said “No, sir,” and Bill was back to gulping down Whoppers and telling whoppers about golf scores.
George W. seems to have lighted on immigration as his salvation. If only his people could engineer a sweeping fix of our flawed citizenship procedures, he would be the hero of the teeming refuse team as the wretched shore up his support. The downtrodden would stand up for him. The partisan swords would be beaten down and the newly imported (or oldly imported and newly legitimized) cheap labor would beat a path to pick up our ploughshares.
I have a simple suggestion, once the mirage fades. It is admittedly cribbed from the Talmud, which requires an unemployed man to be available to have sex with his wife every night if she wishes. Though presented as an obligation, I figure this for a good strategy to save the marriage. If he can’t pay his way as a breadwinner, he can make her feel good in other ways.
Instead of fantasizing about chimerical landmark legislation, just make a project out of cheering people up. Travel to communities and hand out achievement awards — to educators, firefighters, law enforcement, individual heroes. Let us see a big award for the lady in Atlanta who talked the killer who held her hostage into giving up. And one for the kidnapped girl in Philadelphia who chewed through the duct tape and escaped out the basement window. And the Florida kid who similarly got away from an abductor earlier this year.
Don’t be defeated by Homnick’s Law of Two-term Presidents: “Four years looking for sealegs, four years looking for a legacy.”