Bush: 'I Am Relevant'

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; 1:10 PM

A defensive President Bush insisted that he was still relevant this morning in a news conference dominated by his bitter complaints about the Democratic Congress.

Asked how he found himself vetoing a children's health insurance bill that had passed Congress with bipartisan support, Bush insisted that using a veto is "one way to ensure I am relevant."

When a reporter followed up and asked Bush if he felt he was losing leverage and relevance, Bush replied: "I've never felt more engaged and more capable of getting the American people to realize there's a lot of unfinished business."

Which, let's be blunt, is hard to believe.

Everything you need to know about today's hastily scheduled press conference was telegraphed by John Whitesides of Reuters: "Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush's approval rating to another record low this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday. . . .

"Bush's job approval rating fell to 24 percent from last month's record low for a Zogby poll of 29 percent. A paltry 11 percent gave Congress a positive grade, tying last month's record low."

"There is a real question among Americans now about how relevant this government is to them," pollster John Zogby told Whitesides. "They tell us they want action on health care, education, the war and immigration, but they don't believe they are going to get it."

Bush has now tied President Nixon's all-time low approval rating as measured by the Gallup Poll. But Congress is doing even worse.

"Congress has little to show for all the time that has gone by" since Democrats gained control in January of both the House and the Senate, Bush said.

At the end of the press conference, Bush celebrated what he called his "bully pulpit," telling reporters "I was trying to get your attention focused on the fact that major pieces of legislation aren't moving, and those that are, are at a snail's pace. And I hope I did that. I hope I was able to accomplish that."

'Common Ground'

Bush said that "now it's time to put politics aside and seek common ground." But New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg asked: "This morning, you gave us a pretty scathing report card on Democrats. . . . I'm wondering, how would you assess yourself in dealing with Democrats this past year? How effective have you been in dealing with them on various issues? And do you think you've done a good job in finding common ground?"

In his response, Bush demonstrated that his idea of common ground involves Democrats caving in and giving him whatever he asks for.

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