How Lame a Duck?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Monday, June 11, 2007; 3:04 PM

After the apparent collapse of the compromise immigration bill in the Senate last week, the political obituaries for the Bush presidency started rolling in.

President Bush himself isn't giving up quite yet -- he's headed to Capitol Hill tomorrow in a last-ditch attempt to revive the legislation. He'll be having lunch with Republican senators.

But it's not clear that he still has the ability to change anyone's mind -- even members of his own party.

The Obits

Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: "The breakthrough on the 'grand bargain' on immigration a few weeks ago had brought new life to a White House under siege, putting a long-sought goal suddenly within reach. After many grim months, there was almost giddiness at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"But that early euphoria only made the grand bargain's grand collapse on Thursday night all the more of a blow, pointing up a stubbornly unshakable dynamic for President Bush in the final 19 months of his term: With low approval ratings and the race to succeed him well under way, his ability to push his agenda has faded to the point where he can fairly be judged to have entered his lame duck period. . . .

"[E]ven some close allies were surprised by how Mr. Bush's advocacy for immigration had seemed to hurt his cause within his party when, in a speech in Georgia last week, he said those opposed to the bill didn't 'want to do what's right for America.' The statement infuriated Mr. Bush's usually reliable allies on talk radio, in blogs and in Congress, galvanizing the right against his plan all the more."

Michael Abramowitz and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post: "Although congressional aides and GOP strategists said it was unfair to blame Bush alone, the collapse of the immigration bill late Thursday was a reflection of the weakened state of his presidency. Those aides said the bill's troubles were exacerbated by Bush's deteriorating relations with congressional Republicans and his inability to combat an unexpectedly fierce attack on the bill by grass-roots conservatives.

"'This is sort of what his life is going to be like for the rest of his term,' veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins said. 'There are Republicans defecting from him now. He's not going to have any great success on anything that's controversial.' . . .

"Bush has not been able to break through vehement opposition from grass-roots conservatives, which was stoked by conservative talk radio. That vocal opposition gave Republican elected officials little incentive to join with the president in supporting the bill. Even when Bush was in a stronger position politically, revising the immigration laws proved impossible. In his weakened state, his ability to convert opponents proved limited."

Janet Hook and Nicole Gaouette write in the Los Angeles Times: "The collapse of immigration legislation in the Senate this week is a monument to President Bush's enfeebled clout on Capitol Hill, the searing power of hostility toward illegal immigrants, and the difficulty of crafting a compromise on an emotional issue that touches so many diverse economic and political interests."

Tom Raum writes for the Associated Press: "Derailment of President Bush's immigration overhaul plan could be the death knell for his second-term domestic legacy.

"With the president's bids to revamp Social Security, rewrite the tax code and extend expiring tax cuts apparently doomed, the White House sees the immigration bill as the last, best hope for a major domestic victory. . . .

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