Divide and Conquer

What is George W. Bush up to? Twice he has criticized his own party, charging that congressional Republicans were trying to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor” and that the GOP has concentrated on economic issues at the expense of “human problems that persist in the shadow of affluence.” The conventional Beltway explanation has been that he is practicing the triangulation strategy used by Bill Clinton, contrasting himself not only with the opposition but also with the unpopular elements of his own party. Maybe the Beltway experts would have another explanation if they looked at how Bush operated in Texas. Let’s assume that Bush’s GOP rivals are right when they say that his apostasy could cost the GOP control of the U.S. House. Would that be a disaster for President Bush? He would face a Congress that mirrored the makeup of the Texas Legislature during his governorship: a Senate that is narrowly Republican and a House that, while it would have a slender Democratic majority, would be dominated by a bipartisan coalition of moderate conservatives who could keep the extremes of both parties in check. If he could only figure out a way to replicate Democratic leaders like Pete Laney and the late Bob Bullock in Washington, his worries would be over.

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