Battered Bush runs home to daddy

President George W. Bush did not tarry before going fishing on arrival at the family vacation spot in Kennebunkport, where the Atlantic held more promise than angling in the dangerous shoals of Washington.

For Bush, Friday’s fishing trip with his father probably did not prove to be more disappointing than wrangling with Congress, run by Democrats, or the sight of fellow Republicans ready to bolt.

Late this week, the Senate buried what was to be his last great legislative initiative of his presidency: immigration reform. And some of his fellow Republicans in Congress have joined the growing chorus against the Iraq war.

Bush, uncharacteristically embittered, promised to meet with Congress after the July 4 Independence Day holiday to work on the budget.

However, with an increasingly aggressive Congress, cooperation looks more like wishful thinking.

Not only the Democratic opposition but also his Republican allies have placed Bush in the position of an unpopular president sidelined for the rest of his term.

He has repeated admirably that he will press on to the finish line, in January of 2009. However, any power he accrued with his re-election has crumbled, along with Americans’ backing for the Iraq war and the Republican majority in in 2006 legislative elections.

A poll by Fox News, the network that portrays the president most favorably, posted a 31 percent job approval rating for Bush, the lowest he has ever had.

In recent days, Bush has watched some of his fellow Republicans air more than simple reservations about his Iraq strategy, even joining the growing national impatience to see the troops come home.

He also watched Republicans help Democrats to give the coup de grace to an immigration reform bill in which he had invested so much.

The Democratic majority invited head-on confrontation when it demanded the White House turn over information on the most controversial of its anti-terrorist programs: allowing telephone wiretaps of Americans without a judge’s warrant.

Also looming is a possible legal tussle with Democrats over a White House refusal to turn over evidence Congress demanded to discover whether several federal prosecutors were fired for political gain.

Congress also is about to let the clock run out — at Saturday, mindnight — on so-called “fast-track” trade authority, which allows Bush to negotiate trade deals that Congress may either approve or reject, but cannot modify.

Vice President Dick Cheney has his troubles, too, with Congress since he refused to hand over information he contends is confidential.

Incensed after having been marginalized during six years in the minority, the Democrats want to restore to Congress the powers trimmed by a White House they accuse of “stonewalling.”

Besides foreign policy, where the president still holds sway, Bush said he is willing to veto, in the name of a “right to life,” a bill expanding the use of federal moneys for research on human embryos.

And he has threatened the veto against language in a bill making further financing of the war in Iraq dependent upon a timeline for troop withdrawal.

The debate over war funding for next year will be reopened shortly.

“The time has come to start talking about Iraq,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, soon after putting the immigration bill to rest.