Wartime President

George W. Bush obviously loves war — be it the unwinnable one in Iraq or an equally-challenging one within his own party.

Writes Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times:

The negotiations between the White House and Congress that will follow the Senate’s passage on Thursday of an immigration bill could decide not just how the nation confronts illegal immigration but also what strain of conservatism the Republican Party carries into the midterm elections and beyond.

Will it be the compassionate brand Mr. Bush considers crucial to the party’s future, in this case by signaling support for a provision in the Senate bill that would give most illegal immigrants an opportunity to become legal? Or will it be the more doctrinaire variety embraced by much of Mr. Bush’s party in the House, one that shuns anything that smacks of amnesty for illegal immigrants and seeks to criminalize them further?

That Mr. Bush has chosen to put so much capital behind an issue so divisive within his own party — and during an election year in which Republican prospects seem particularly grim — has bewildered some conservatives.

"Clearly, Bush is not in tune with where I think the bulk of the Republican Party is today," said Bruce Bartlett, a conservative critic of the president who worked for Mr. Bush’s father’s administration and that of Ronald Reagan. "He’s getting hammered on a lot of the talk-radio shows, and I kind of wonder what the motivation was."

Mr. Bartlett said he could only surmise that the issue was so close to Mr. Bush’s heart that he was willing to risk further division within his party to see his plan, or some close version of it, become law.

Of course there could be another explanation — that Bush is so ego-driven, so despotic that he believes his course of action is the only course and it’s his way or the highway. That’s what got us into such a mess in Iraq and he seems destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over.