Monday, July 2, 2007

Six months into the first session of the Democratic Congress and the last two years of the Bush administration, the news isn’t good.

The Democrats have staggered and stumbled through an ill-conceived, haphazard agenda that seems to be going nowhere, and they’ve got the failing midsemester scores to prove it. Their approval polls have sunk into the 20s, and in some surveys the teens, as Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the job they’re doing.

The latest Gallup Poll shows voters are most concerned about the war in Iraq, the economy and jobs, and the costs of health care, in that order. But there is little if any evidence Congress is dealing effectively with any of these issues.

Instead, the Democrats seem intent on fighting the 2004 presidential race all over again. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the deeply partisan Judiciary Committee chairman, is lobbing subpoenas at the White House to demand internal documents and memos about the president’s handling of national-security actions taken to foil further terrorist plots to kill more Americans.

Apparently, Mr. Leahy has not heard of the separation of powers inherent in our constitutional system of government. He wants every e-mail, every scrap of paper prepared for the president and vice president regarding warrantless eavesdropping on terrorist intercepts to be delivered to Congress’ doorstep, where it can be leaked to the New York Times and The Washington Post.

Presidents are fully entitled to receive confidential advice, opinions and recommendations from their national-security advisers and other experts outside the politically pernicious purview of Democratic lawmakers intent on waging war against this administration in preparation for next year’s elections.

Absent any evidence of wrongdoing, and Mr. Leahy hasn’t produced any, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, too, are well within their rights to protect a separation of powers that was frayed and torn asunder in the scandal-plagued Clinton years.

Mr. Bush, of course, has a full plate of his own problems that seem to have worsened. His immigration-reform hopes have sunk into a morass of opposition on Capitol Hill. It seems likely the Democrats will let most of his across-the-board tax cuts expire in 2010. A move is under way to end his fast-track trade-negotiating authority to expand U.S. markets overseas. A stalemate is brewing over a bunch of spendthrift appropriations bills Mr. Bush intends to veto.

Iraq remains the president’s toughest issue. Small victories appear here and there in the troop-surge effort, but the insurgents have struck back with deadly force, killing U.S. and Iraqi soldiers at an ever-increasing pace.

Democratic leaders plan to tack on troop-withdrawal amendments to any bill they can in an unending legislative war they will wage through the summer — while we await a report from Iraq on whether the new strategy has made any progress there.

Not everything on Mr. Bush’s record has turned sour. He has succeeded on a number of other fronts.

Recent decisions by the Supreme Court, which can appropriately be called “the Bush court,” suggest the president has clearly pushed it to the right for many years to come.

First came the high court’s vote in April when Justice Samuel Alito, put there by Mr. Bush, was the deciding vote in upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. That was followed last week by a ruling to significantly weaken the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance regulations. Justice Alito was the key vote on that one, too, ruling in favor of free speech, something the McCain-Feingold law — better known as the incumbent-protection act — sought to restrict.

While their longevity is in question, depending on who wins the White House next year, Mr. Bush’s tax cuts have clearly strengthened the economy in more ways than one. They helped it overcome some huge body blows, including the September 11, 2001, attacks on America, the Enron/accounting scandals that rocked the financial markets and Hurricane Katrina.

But on another level, the increased economic growth has produced a wave of revenues that has slashed in half an estimated $400 billion deficit and will likely eliminate it before the decade is over.

Much has been said about how the Bush presidency has alienated our allies across the globe. In fact, political changes in Europe and elsewhere have produced new leaders who are much friendlier to the United States and closer to Mr. Bush and his worldview. The newly elected leaders of France and Germany are noticeably pro-American and have reached out to form a closer alliance with the United States on a number of economic fronts.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will no doubt seek to set his own policies on Iraq and other issues but will likely continue the very “special relationship” between our two countries that Tony Blair has fostered. By the way, Mr. Brown vacations on Cape Cod.

Mr. Bush’s personal, pick-up-the-phone-and-let’s-talk diplomacy has done much to strengthen and steer these and other global relationships into a stronger bond than before.

At times, it may appear like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but there are some good things happening out there — like a global economic boom that is lifting once-Third World countries out of poverty. You just need to look in the right places to find them.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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