In the days following the Republican Party's historic wins in
last fall's midterm elections, President Bush seemed so strong
politically that White House officials boasted he might have a
"second 100 days" to push his priorities through Congress.
But while the president has had some success on his foreign
agenda - building support for a possible war with Iraq - he's
running into surprisingly stiff resistance on top domestic
Aspects of his economic stimulus plan - from the elimination of
dividend taxes to the creation of new retirement-savings accounts -
have met with unfavorable reactions from both Democrats and
Republican committee chairmen. Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan
registered his disapproval of the cost in Senate testimony
yesterday. Likewise, even before Bush's plan for Medicare reform and
a prescription-drug benefit was officially released, elements of it
ignited such controversy that the administration has scrambled to
Mr. Bush is promoting his domestic agenda this week and next,
pushing his plan for faith-based initiatives and discussing economic
proposals. But analysts say he may not get much traction.
For one thing, the Iraq conflict and the terrorist threat
continue to consume much of the president's attention. And at a time
of foreign crisis, there's often less will - and less cash - for
sweeping domestic change. Indeed, some analysts argue the president
would have had a hard time selling this domestic agenda, even under
the best of circumstances.
"Some of [the trouble] is a reflection of a little bit of
overreaching and hubris on the part of the White House," says Norman
Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.
"But ... this is an exceptionally sweeping, radical agenda in the
teeth of a Congress that doesn't easily have the numbers to make
those things happen."
Historically, presidents often see domestic agendas stall amid
foreign crises - particularly if they include ambitious reform.
Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was thrown off track by the Vietnam
War; Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal got mired in World War II.
"During the Second World War, most members of Congress were
foursquare behind [Roosevelt]," says Ross Baker, a political
scientist at Rutgers University. "But [on] domestic matters ... he
ran into a lot of obstacles."
Since lawmakers from both parties usually support the president
on war - unless the war goes badly - that leaves the domestic arena
as the only place for the opposition party to draw contrasts and
throw barbs. While a number of Democrats supported Bush's tax-cut
plan in 2001, most have aggressively attacking his proposals this
Still, it's disagreements with Republicans that are most