Less than one year ago, George W. Bush was running for reelection in one of the closest presidential races in U.S. history. He won - as Dick Cheney is so apt to say - with the largest number of votes ever. (Never mind that John Kerry had the second highest number of votes ever. Really, never mind it. His campaign sucked.) The Bush administration was flying high after the election and claiming that their 51 percent share of the electorate entitled them to a "mandate" that would fundamentally change or eliminate a number of long-standing American policies and programs. Remember the "ownership society" we were going to create? Remember that bellyflop known as Social Security reform? Remember the Iraqi with the purple thumb at the State of the Union address? Remember September 11, 2001? Everyone seemed to believe that Bush had at least two years of political capital shored up, and it was going to be spent fast and furiously in his second term.
Unfortunately for the administration (and fortunately for the country), the Bush capital has been sucked up faster than $3 per gallon gasoline in a Hummer H2. Rising oil prices, an unpopular war (ok, that's an understatement), reform policies that everyone but corporate wags hate, blatant religious fanaticism (Terri Schiavo, the filibuster flub, "intelligent" design), and now the worst natural disaster in our history followed up by the worst federal government response in history, and abysmal poll results, have all left this president with practically zero political capital as we head into the 2006 Congressional races. George W. Bush has effectively become a lame duck with more than three years left in his second term.
What we appear to have here is a melting pot boiling over with political turmoil. Yeah, things were heated during the election last year. But people still bought into Bush because they thought he'd make us safer, or that he was somehow more "moral," or that you can't change horses in midstream (which, strangely enough, are the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song). People bought into Bush and they're now realizing that there are some immense defects. Empty promises (like Rumsfeld's recent one that troops would be out of Iraq in two years...haven't we been hearing that for two years now?) sound like broken records. And people become much more attuned to their repetition when they're faced with tragedy and ineptitude at the same time. Perhaps we need a product recall.