Not long ago, President Bush was listing issues where he and Democrats could work together after the GOP's election "thumpin.' " Democratic leaders also talked the bipartisan talk. Will it instead turn out to be two years of legislative gridlock?
The politics of war, of congressional oversight, and of a premature presidential campaign will make it very difficult for this Congress and White House to move ahead on substantial issues – perhaps more difficult than in past presidencies facing an opposition Congress in the lame-duck years. Add to this an almost evenly divided Senate, and the stage is set for inaction.
That's not to say that work can't be done. Indeed, major challenges such as healthcare, climate change, entitlement reform, and illegal immigration demand cooperation – today if not yesterday. But for this to happen, the president must want to go out on a note that can be heard above the political crossfire of the Iraq war. That desire will have to coincide with one from Democrats to accomplish something beyond their present focus on oversight.
At the moment, that's hard to imagine. Democrats are dumbfounded at the president's refusal to accept what they see as a rebuke to his war strategy in the 2006 election. Although they've had trouble uniting on an alternative, on Friday they got behind a House war-funding bill that sets a troop withdrawal deadline of September 2008. The bill, which narrowly passed, is one of the toughest antiwar measures ever passed during ongoing combat.