Rejecting a President's Leadership, Locally
DANIEL SCHORR: Call it political pragmatism if you wish.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
NPR senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.
SCHORR: Today, President Bush was simply breathtaking in his ability to discard a position he took only a week ago: that he would retain Secretary Rumsfeld who was doing a fantastic job.
Asked about that today at his news conference, the president explained that he didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign.
The president acted today like a candidate who has lost his election and was now trying to come to terms gracefully with his defeat. In a sense, he was publicly abandoning hope his presidency would fulfill conservative hopes of ushering in a permanent Republican majority.
He may also have been trying to hand off a Democratic move in the next Congress to conduct searching investigations of issues like military contracting. It's generally expected that there will be subpoenas flying when the Democrats take over committee chairmanships.
What the election may have also brought home to Mr. Bush is how little support he enjoys from the American voters. In a Wall Street Journal poll, 56 percent of respondents said that America is seriously on the wrong track, and 58 percent disapproved of the way that President Bush is doing his job. The president said today he was aware that many Americans had voted to express their displeasure.
What remains to be seen is whether Mr. Bush's conciliatory move will extend to heeding his generals and changing his policy on Iraq. The report of the Baker- Hamilton Iraq Study Group is due to be presented to him next week, providing him with an opportunity to review the cost of the war. The great unknown is what will be the effect of the election and Rumsfeld's resignation in Iraq.
In Iraq, it could look like a display of weakness that could embolden the insurgents. At his news conference, Mr. Bush said to our enemies, do not be joyful. But for the president, having had to jettison Rumsfeld to keep the ship afloat isn't very joyful either.
This is Daniel Schorr.