Bush Still President, Times Disturbed

Jim Rutenberg: Bush is "the man who all but ignored the disputed circumstances of his election in 2000, governed from then as if he had an expansive mandate...."

Now that the Democrats control both houses of Congress, the Times apparently wants Bush to stop acting like he's the president or something.

Reporter Jim Rutenberg's "White House Memo," "BushReaches Out, but Keeps One Hand on the Wheel," paints Bush as out of touch while taking a jab at the Wall Street Journal.

"In an article published on a friendly op-ed page, and from the regal confines of the White House, President Bush greeted the incoming Democratic leadership of Congress on Wednesday with a message of bipartisanship.

"But he also sent another message: I'm still the guy with the big plane, the big office (the oval one) and the presidential seal.

"With the op-ed, in The Wall Street Journal, and in the Rose Garden appearance, Mr. Bush sought to set the governing agenda one day before Democrats were officially to take control of Congress and alter the balance of power that has favored Mr. Bush's party for nearly his entire presidency.

"In doing so, Mr. Bush mixed calls for unity in governing with a series of red flags on his signature issues.

"Tax increases? Forget it.

"'The elections have not reversed the laws of economics,' Mr. Bush wrote in The Journal. 'It is a fact that economies do best when you reward hard work by allowing people to keep more of what they have earned.'

"The war in Iraq? 'We now have the opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus to fight and win the war,' he wrote. In other words, we're staying.

"That new Democratic majority? It isn't really so big.

"'The minority party, especially where the margins are close,' Mr. Bush wrote, 'has a strong say in the form bills take.' And the president, he added - lest anyone forget - has the constitutional authority 'to use his judgment whether they should be signed into law.'

"Several Democrats said Mr. Bush's words on Wednesday had raised questions about what kind of president would show up when they get down to the business of governing side by side.

Rutenberg paints Bush as someone with something to apologize for, perhaps for winning a close race against sitting Democratic Vice President Al Gore: "Some Democrats may have hoped it would be the George W. Bush who contritely acknowledged a 'thumpin' for his party the day after the elections in November. But the evidence suggests it is more likely to be the man who all but ignored the disputed circumstances of his election in 2000, governed from then as if he had an expansive mandate and who - even as he has employed soothing tones in speaking to and about Democrats for the last two months - has gradually but firmly reasserted himself on both foreign and domestic policy."

A president asserting himself on foreign and domestic policy? Unheard of. One wonders if this was the same tone the Times took on presidential authority when President Bill Clinton's Democratic Party lost control of the House and Senate in 1994.