One of the hallmarks of George W. Bush has been his stubborn refusal to change course no matter what, even when he is clearly way off track. We have seen it over the years in everything from his legislative agenda to his steadfast and unswerving determination to invade and then remain in Iraq, no matter what it has cost us.
It has even occasionally won him political victories, such as in the continuing funding of the Iraq war over this past summer (after all, arguing with Bush about this is a little like playing a highway game of chicken with a blind man.) But such victories have been pyrrhic. The cost to his presidency, his party and the nation have far outweighed the dubious benefits of whatever he believes he has gained.
And so we see now with the SCHIPS program, which President Bush promises to veto. He certainly will veto it, and claim that he is therefore standing for 'fiscal responsibility.' Of course vetoing a five year, $35 billion expansion of the program that covers medical costs for poor and uninsured children is dwarfed by the half trillion dollars he has already poured down a real rathole in Iraq, not to mention the nearly $200 billion in new Iraq spending he is seeking.
In fact, it is a good thing that the college aid bill that I wrote the last post on passed at about the same time as the SCHIPS fight was gearing up. The President, while expressing reservations, signed it. And the reason is clear-- he had a choice of either standing against the SCHIPS bill OR the college bill, but he did not have the political capital left, even within his own party, to be able to make a veto stand on both. So he quietly signed the college aid bill even though it is certainly a bill which would never have either been passed nor signed during the past six years of Republican control over the House.
That is however why I am optimistic that regardless of what this President thinks, sooner or later he will lose on Iraq and have to bring the troops home. His party would not support him on two vetoes, and the one he chose was arguably the more politically damaging of the two-- despite attempts to falsely spin it as an attack on the elderly (though most elderly are smart enough to remember which party it was that actually did try to privatize Social Security two years ago) there is no question that Republicans will have to answer why they were unwilling to increase the tax on a cigar anywhere upward from a nickel in order to pay for kids health care. Certainly not a question they will want to have to answer.
Iraq funding will certainly come up as well next year. And as the election draws closer it will be harder and harder for wavering war supporters to stick with their Hawkish President. And sooner or later they may well abandon him when it matters most. His unwillingness to bend dooms many in his own party.
Well, when it happens I will just heat up some popcorn and enjoy the show.