Snooze alarm.

Notes from the political sidelines.
March 16 2006 9:07 AM

Snooze Alarm

The side effects of Bush fatigue.

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(Continued from Page 6)

Here's a tip for profilers at DHS: If a Porsche is the first sign of mid-life crisis, a private sub is the first sign that someone is a megalomaniac out to take over the world.

Even with help from Austin Powers, the new James Bond will have his hands full. It's bad enough that we inspect only 5 percent of cargo and let foreigners run our ports. Now we'll sell any rich crackpot a submarine to sneak in and destroy them. ... 1:01 P.M. (link)

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Thursday, Mar. 2, 2006

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Great American Zeroes: Astute reader Kyle Sammin of Philadelphia points out that George Bush, the emperor who has no vetoes, may be in a class by himself. Of the last four presidents before Bush who never vetoed a bill, none served a full term, and three died in office: James Garfield, William Henry Harrison, and Zachary Taylor. The fourth, Millard Fillmore, served out Taylor's term.

But as Sammin points out, only Garfield's vetoes stopped for death. Sammin may be the first historian to ask the question, "What if William Henry Harrison had lived?" His conclusion: Harrison, Taylor, and Fillmore could have lived to be 100 and still never vetoed a bill. All three were Whigs, who opposed the veto on principle and believed Congress should run the show.

Tippecanoe may have been a war hero, but even if he hadn't died a month after his inauguration, he would have been a conscientious objector on the veto. Sammin explains:

The Whig party was formed to combat the "abuses" of the first Imperial President, Andrew Jackson. They were incensed especially by Jackson's veto of a bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States. As such, they believed that a President should never veto a bill unless he believed it to be unconstitutional.

Whigs named themselves for their British counterparts, who were likewise opponents of imperial power. American Whigs were a congressional party, and while they had somewhat better leadership than Tom DeLay (Henry Clay, Daniel Webster), they shared DeLay's expectation that their presidential candidates should roll over in office.

It could just be historical coincidence, but for five straight years (until the past week), the current administration has marched in lockstep with Republican congressional leaders. So, let me ask the question even Maureen Dowd is afraid to: Is George W. Bush a Whig?

At first blush, Bush supporters and opponents alike will say no, he's an executive tyrant, not a congressional lapdog. They'll cite his warrantless spy program, the Dubai ports deal, and congressional Republicans' favorite game to play with the president in this campaign year: hide-and-seek.

Whig in Sheep's Clothing: But for all we know, the imperial presidency is a clever ruse to make Congress look good. The Bush White House has made clear for months that holding the Republican majority in Congress is its main domestic agenda for 2006, so it's entirely possible that Bush is being disagreeable just for effect. Karl Rove's advice to Rick Santorum and Heather Wilson might well be: "We'll give you the chance to distance yourselves from the White House—and if you win, the president will invite you down for a good laugh as he signs the next capital gains tax cut." As Mickey Kaus  suggests, it could all be "a logical Kabuki outcome for the GOP."

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