One More Year Living Dangerously For Unsung Commander In Chief
Members of Congress from the president's own party, seated on one side of the hall, stood and cheered often at the many well-designed applause lines, while those on the other side, from the other party, usually sat quietly — just as always.
More bipartisan approval might well have been expected for a chief executive who for more than six years now has prevented a repeat of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Instead, there is bitter resentment from top Democrats over his no-holds-barred approach to the global war on terror.
President Bush acknowledges applause before delivering his seventh — and last — State of the Union address to Congress on Monday. The National Security Agency's terrorist surveillance program, the CIA's interrogation program and this White House's steadfast refusal to follow official Washington's advice and accept "defeat with dignity" in Iraq have combined to infuriate congressional Democrats.
But in the course of the speech Monday night, there was one remarkably telling moment. President Bush noted that his new surge strategy in Iraq, widely considered the longest of long shots when he proposed it, had "achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago."
Seated behind him, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi clearly had no intention of clapping and standing.An instant later, however, she — and her fellow Democrats — thought better of it and joined in the applause.
Pelosi's relenting in that fashion signifies something: That with one year now left in his term of office, it is simply impossible not to give credit to this president for stubbornly refusing to accept anything less than victory over terrorism. And that credit will only be magnified when history begins to make its judgment on Inauguration Day 2009.
The frustrating paradox, which has not gone unappreciated at the highest echelons of the White House, is that the administration's success in protecting the homeland has made it easier for its critics to accuse it of trampling the Constitution with the very programs that have so effectively protected the public.
The more than six years without another domestic terrorist attack creates the illusion in the minds of some that the administration's measures are unnecessary.
It is in this context of post-9/11 enhanced intelligence-gathering that the hard stances of the Bush White House can be understood. On insisting that Congress, after six months of thinking about it, extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that expires Friday, the White House fears that further delays will allow turf battles between committees to lead to a watering down of the law.
With presidential campaigning and the party conventions coming this summer, this year's legislative session will be short, making it all the more imperative for Congress to renew a law that has proved indispensable to national security.