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President Bush Faces Waning Political Capital in Final Year

As President Bush approaches his final year in office, he faces lame-duck status with a Democrat-controlled Congress poised to block his agenda. Editorial page editors from around the country assess the president's strengths and weaknesses.

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    With a little more than a year left in his second term, President Bush finds himself fending off questions about how effective he remains when it comes to shaping the national political agenda.


    Do you feel as if you're losing leverage and that you're becoming increasingly irrelevant? And what can you do about that to…

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Quite the contrary. I've never felt more engaged and more capable of helping people recognize — American people recognize that there's a lot of unfinished business. And, you know, I'm really looking forward to the next 15 months, looking forward to getting some things done for the American people.


    That exchange at yesterday's press conference came the same day that a new Reuters-Zogby poll showed the president's approval rating had dipped to a new low of 24 percent.

    Even so, President Bush is still winning some battles, including today's showdown in the House over S-CHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and brokering a deal with the Senate on oversight of a warrantless surveillance program targeting terrorists.

    The president's nominee for U.S. attorney general, Michael Mukasey, seems slated for Senate approval. And Mr. Bush appears to have forced Congress to back down on an Armenian genocide resolution.


    With all these pressing responsibilities, one thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire.


    And while the president may not be putting forward major new initiatives these days, yesterday he seemed eager to blame Congress, controlled by Democrats, for legislative gridlock.


    We're now more than halfway through October, and the new leaders in Congress have had more than nine months to get things done for the American people. Unfortunately, they haven't managed to pass many important bills. Now the clock is winding down. In some key areas, Congress is just getting started.


    Here, the president was picking his target with care: Yesterday's poll showed Congress's approval rating stood even lower than his.

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