At yesterday's press conference, President Bush insisted that he is still "relevant." Normally, it's an immutable law of politics that if you have to say you're relevant, you're not (shades of Clinton circa 1995). But in Bush's case, his role as the primary Decider on the war in Iraq is keeping him tragically relevant -- in the same way that the driver of a bus careening toward the edge of cliff is extremely relevant to his passengers.
Okay, so Bush is relevant. And deluded. Deeply deluded, if he truly believes, as he also claimed, that he and Congressional Democrats are "finding common ground on Iraq."
Beating your opponent into the ground with vetoes and filibuster threats is not the same as finding common ground.
Barbara Boxer caught some flack for going on Hardball last night and saying, "The president just doesn't seem to be in command of the facts or what he's trying to say... I don't find it particularly stable."
But Boxer is right. And Democrats need more of their leaders calling the president out on his delusions. Unfortunately, they have convinced themselves that if they just keep their heads down they will back into a landslide win in 2008. It's why they refuse to use the most potent weapon the Constitution has given them: the power to stop funding the war. They have that power, but not the will or the courage to use it. Instead they are adopting the same timid approach that cost them in 2002 and 2004 -- and, in doing so, are playing right into the Republicans' hands.
It's no surprise that Congress has an even lower approval rating than Bush, who himself has dropped to all-time-low Nixonian levels. The American people don't like that Bush is continuing to do what he's always done (whatever he damn well pleases); but they hate the fact that Democrats have an opportunity to aggressively push for an end to the war but refuse to take full advantage.
In many ways, it's déjà vu all over again. Bush is dialing up the fear factor and Democrats are running for cover -- signing off on a gutted FISA bill, dithering over attempts to defund the war, and having 2002 flashbacks as Bush and Cheney seed the clouds for another war, with Bush warning of "World War III" if Iran is able to build a nuclear weapon. And when it comes to tweaking our lizard brains, WW III is definitely a bump up from Axis of Evil.
So Bush is still relevant. And unless the Democrats make it crystal clear -- in actions as well as words -- that there is no common ground, they risk finding themselves increasingly irrelevant.