Bush's 'Political Capital' Dwindling

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says that the "political capital" Preisdent Bush claimed after the 2004 election may be slipping away, as much of the criticism leveled at the president in recent weeks has come from his most stalwart supporters.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says the fallout over the Miers nomination is just part of a larger problem facing President Bush and his party.

DANIEL SCHORR:

On the cover of Newsweek this week is the line: `The GOP: A Mounting Crisis of Competence and Cronyism.' On the cover of The Economist: `What's Gone Wrong With America's Right?' `Increasingly,' the magazine answers, `it is this administration's incompetence.' At his news conference yesterday, President Bush was asked how much was left of the political capital he said after his re-election that he had earned. `Plenty, plenty,' he replied.

But that doesn't appear to be the case. This looks more like the autumn of his discontent, and more and more his problems are with those who were his most stalwart supporters. `He's desperate not to give offense,' writes The Washington Times; `Cronyism and capitulation,' writes William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. The president's legislative agenda lies dead in the water, while some Republicans in the House prepare to take on the president on meeting the massive costs of post-Katrina reconstruction.

The nomination of White House legal counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court bids fare to become another source of contention among conservatives. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal calls it a `faith-based nomination,' and says that, `Only Mr. Bush seems to know much about Harriet Miers' constitutional views.' Columnist George Will writes that the nomination `is not a defensible exercise of presidential discretion.'

Republicans as well as Democrats demand to know about positions that she took as White House legal counsel. Complaints were voiced at a meeting of the socially conservative Family Research Council that the organization was being asked to endorse a blank slate. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, writes that, `The Miers nomination looks like the latest act of an overly insular, increasingly off-key White House.' The president's reluctance to release Ms. Miers' White House files to the Senate Judiciary Committee could well be cited by the Democrats as the `extraordinary circumstance' that could justify a filibuster.

Watching the president yesterday, as he insisted that he has plenty of political capital, it occurred to me that he doesn't seem to swagger as much as he used to, perhaps with good reason. This is Daniel Schorr.

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