It's Too Early to Assess a Legacy, but Not Presidential Candidates

Article excerpt

President Bush is embattled and his administration is adrift in the second-term doldrums. But three years is an eternity in politics and much can happen to change the landscape before Americans vote on his successor.

Dominating all is Iraq and how it turns out. Saddam Hussein's villainy will probably be in the headlines again as his trial enters a new phase. There are intriguing hints about political overtures from some terrorist groups to the interim government. An election two weeks hence will determine the makeup of a new parliament. All these events could have a significant bearing on the future of Iraq.

Aside from Iraq, historians looking at the president's foreign policy record will decide how well he handled relations with Iran and North Korea in the last years of his term, as well as a possible regime change in Cuba, and a possible challenge from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

At home the president will take on significant problems like illegal immigration and Social Security reform.

So it is much too early to assess his legacy. But not too early for the possible successor candidates, both Democratic and Republican, to be dreaming dreams about moving into the White House.

On the Democratic side, Sen. John Kerry is said to be mulling a second run for the presidency but is dogged by a reputation for indecisiveness and opportunism. His vice-presidential running mate, John Edwards, is weighing his own prospects, whatever Mr. Kerry decides. Sen. Joe Biden is knowledge able in the area of foreign affairs but is thought by many to be more suited for the post of secretary of State in a Democratic administration rather than occupant of the White House. Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, who would have major support from Hispanics, is another as yet undeclared Democratic contender. Hillary Clinton has earned her dues as a diligent member of the Senate. She has been moving steadily to the political center in a bid to shed her liberal image, supporting the war in Iraq and coming out against an immediate withdrawal. She is still seen as a front- runner to win the Democratic party's nomination, even though many pundits believe she could not then win the presidency.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain has been a stalwart supporter of Mr. Bush's hold-the-line-and-don't-quit position on Iraq, even arguing for committing more American troops. …