Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bad week for Bush as allies melt away

Bad week for Bush as allies melt away
By Andrew Ward in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 29 2007 20:16 | Last updated: June 29 2007 20:16

As President George W. Bush told the story of Cory Endlich, a 23-year-old from Ohio, who died in Iraq this month, his voice cracked and his chin quivered.

“Cory was an Ohio boy who wanted to join the army so badly that his dad let him start training his senior year of high school,” he told an audience in Rhode Island on Thursday.

There was no doubting the authenticity of Mr Bush’s anguish about Sgt Endlich’s death, but the show of emotion may also have reflected the strain of what has been one of the worst weeks of his presidency.

In recent days, Mr Bush has suffered a series of damaging setbacks that have exposed the waning influence of his increasingly unpopular and isolated administration.

As Mr Bush was speaking in Rhode Island, Congress was in the process of dealing a fatal blow to a bipartisan immigration reform bill that the president had spent much of the past several months promoting.

What made the defeat particularly damaging was the fact it was delivered not by Democrats but by Mr Bush’s own party.

Earlier in the week, Senator Richard Lugar, senior Republican on the Senate foreign relations committee, became the most senior member of his party to call for the start of US withdrawal from Iraq, giving voice to growing unrest among Republicans about the war.

Together, the collapse of the immigration bill and mounting rebellion over Iraq have highlighted Mr Bush’s diminishing authority over his own party as Republicans turn their attention towards next year’s elections.

Sensing weakness, Democrats chose this week to intensify a range of investigations into the Bush administration, including the issuing of subpoenas demanding documents relating to the National Security Agency’s controversial domestic surveillance programme.

The bad news continued on Friday when the Supreme Court agreed to review whether Guantánamo Bay detainees may go to federal court to challenge their indefinite confinement, raising fresh doubts about the legality of the administration’s treatment of prisoners captured in the “war on terror”.

Mr Bush had hoped an overhaul of US immigration laws would provide the lasting domestic legacy he has been seeking since his efforts to reform the Social Security system failed earlier in his second term.

With little prospect of agreement between the White House and Democratic-controlled Congress on other main issues, the defeat means Mr Bush’s legislative agenda is in effect dead 18 months before he leaves office. In a make-or-break procedural vote, only 12 of 48 Republican senators voted in favour of keeping the bill alive. The outcome was a humiliation for Mr Bush, who had made personal phone calls to numerous senators seeking their support, and dispatched senior cabinet and White House officials to Capitol Hill.


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