As George W. Bush licked his wounds following the humiliating public rejection of his failed Iraq war policies in the November mid-term elections, he knew he had one chance left to force his autocratic agenda on America.
Following the election, Bush challenged the outgoing Republican leadership of Congress to approve two key items on his radical agenda: Pass his expanded, and some say illegal, domestic spying program and confirm controversial United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, another lame duck whose recess appointment ran out at the end of the year.
Bush, who aides say is becoming increasingly bitter and withdrawn, saw approval of both as his only opportunity to salvage something from the election debacle – a last desperate chance to save face.
But Republicans, angry at an unpopular President they felt cost them control of Congress, wanted nothing to do with anything remaining on Bush’s agenda. Sen. Lincoln Chaffee, a rare GOP moderate who lost only because he has a "R" after his name, didn’t like Bush or Bolton and used the final days of his committee chairmanship to block Bolton’s permanent nomination.
And the Republican-led Congress is expected to adjourn for good at the end of this week, leaving the domestic terrorism surveillance bill on the table – a political hot potato that stands little chance of passage once the Democrats take over in January.
Bush told Republicans that he "must have" the law to fight terrorism. Republicans told Bush to go screw himself. They lost their jobs in part because of the President’s consistent abuse of power and they contributed to the stampede that trampled the Constitution into the dust. The voters sent a clear message that they had had enough of Republican control of Congress and those Republicans sent Bush a clear message that they, and the party, have had enough of him.
Not since the Democrats shunned Harry S. Truman in 1948 has a political party so abandoned its President and standard bearer. For six years, the moronic House and Senate leadership of the Republican party followed Bush into the abyss without question, without regard to consequence and without remembering that their first duty was to uphold the Constitution, not march in goose-step lockstep with the madman of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
They paid the price for such stupidity and their own corruption. Their only recourse was to tell Bush to stick his legislative agenda where the sun don’t shine, pack up their boxes, and sneak out of town like bandits on the run.
While Republicans who lost control of Congress blame Bush for their woes, they brought it upon themselves. The party that controlled Congress for the past 12 years bore little resemblance to the GOP that voters thought they put in control in 1994. The party that stood for small government increased the federal bureaucracy by monumental proportions, sent pork barrel spending to new heights and destroyed what little reputation the House and Senate might have once held.
The Republican rejection of Bush in the final days of the lame-duck session could, at first glance, seem like a long-overdue exercise of Congressional oversight of a President who has pretty much had it his way for the past six years.
It wasn’t. They didn’t reject John Bolton. They just let the nomination die. They didn’t reject Bush’s domestic spying program. They just left it on the table.
The final irony of the Republican Congress is that, in the end, they did their best work by doing nothing – a fitting finale to their 12 year reign of incompetence, corruption and scandal.