CBSN

Bush's Post-Modern Politics

President George W. Bush (left) and his father, former President George H. W. Bush, visiting Fort Hood, Texas, on 4-11-04
AP
This commentary was written by CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer.

"I don't worry about anything
here in Washington, D.C."

- President George W. Bush,
the Rose Garden, May 31, 2005

Houston, we have a problem.

The President of the United States does not worry about anything in Washington, D.C.

That would be fine and even healthy coming from 99.9 percent of the American population. It would be understandable coming from a political consultant. But in a president, it's lame.

Perhaps as in lame duck?

You can interpret the president's words in three ways.

He does care about Washington very much and he was just lying. Or, perhaps he really doesn't care about Washington, but does care about the people and country and just spoke naively about the job of a real-life president hired to tend to the people and the country. Or you could use the White House spin savants' preferred hermeneutic device of insisting that the president's words can only be properly understood by members of the White House staff.

None of these interpretations offers great comfort.

The current presidential pickle has been well-pundited recently. President Bush said two days after his reelection that he had "political capital, and now I intend to spend it."

He has now spent it and gotten, ironically, a bankruptcy bill and little more. The Republican-led House recently passed two measures over the president's veto threat: easing stem cell research restrictions and altering the Patriot Act.

He has gotten nowhere with his Social Security crusade. John Bolton, his nominee to head off to the United Nations, is still twisting in the wind and a group of Senate Republicans ditched him on judicial nominations. The blood still flows in Iraq and a high-profile Republican Senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, picked up the mantra of the left and declared to U.S. News & World Report that, "The White House is disconnected from reality." And his poll numbers are tanking.

"I don't worry about anything here in Washington, D.C."

That's cool. Sort of a post-modern thing.

It's just that the trickiest landmine of President Bush's second term could get stepped on next week if Chief Justice William Rehnquist retires. The president knows that; he learned it from his pop.