Thursday, October 02, 2008

Discredited President

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Yesterday was not only a black Monday for markets.
It was the blackest of Mondays too for the US political system, saddled with a discredited president who has completely lost control of his own party and a Congress that responds to a national emergency with little except snarling partisanship.

The stunning defeat of the financial bailout bill has exposed the weakness of the system at its moment of maximum vulnerability, in the quasi-interregnum of the weeks immediately before and after a presidential election. Even so, had a similar crisis erupted at the same stage of the second term of Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan it is hard to imagine Congress staging a similar rebellion. For George W Bush, alas, it is a different story.

His lack of clout was first exposed last Thursday when the bailout summit he convened at the White House degenerated into a blazing row. But that humiliation paled beside yesterday's. The President went on TV at 7.30am to plead for the measure that had been thrashed out over the weekend, to no avail. Then he called two dozen recalcitrant House Republicans, begging them to hold their noses and do their patriotic duty – but again to no avail.

When the vote came, his own party voted almost two to one against the bill, more than cancelling out the 140-95 majority of Democrats who did hold their noses to support the wishes of a President most of them despise.