Tuesday, May 31, 2005

After the 2004 election, Bush famously declared that he had earned plenty of "political capital" and intended to "spend it".

As the old adage goes, the victors get to write the history books, and Bush, as the winner, was certainly attempting to write the history of the election in a way that reflected favorably upon him and his policies. In Bush's narrative, the public came out in massive support - in numbers no other presidential candidate had ever received - of Bush's plans to reform Social Security, continue his pro-democracy push abroad, his Iraq and anti-terror policies, his domestic fiscal policies and his nominating non-liberals to the federal bench.

Unfortunately for Bush, the election was more a referendum on John Kerry. It wasn't that the public wanted all of, or even most of, what Bush was offering, it was simply that we wanted a whole lot less of what John Kerry had to offer. What the public wanted from Bush was to NOT do the things that John Kerry stood for: no kissing up to the French, no wavering in the war on terror, no voting for it before voting against it, and so on.

Of course, and understandably so, Bush didn't see things this way. Admitting you were the least of two evils is not exactly the way one goes about trying to rally support for doing the things one wants to do. And Bush's ego - as big as that of any politician - wouldn't ever allow him to view Kerry as having lost the election - no, the history books would show, would have to show, Bush as having won the election.

All of which makes it interesting to read today's Washington Post claims that Bush has lost his political capital . Yet, how can the Post say Bush has lost something the Post never agreed that he had in the first place? The Post never bought into Bush's claims that he had any type of mandate. They never accepted Bush's claim that he had political capital to spend pushing conservative policies. It's only now that the Post is retroactively giving him political capital, only so they can now declare it gone.

Along the same lines, can Bush be in trouble for losing something that he never had? I think not, but perception is what matters in Washington and so long as there are those claiming he is in trouble, then he's likely to be in trouble...