Of course George Bush is a lame duck. His poll numbers are dreadful, a hostile Democratic leadership runs Congress and core advisers like Karl Rove are checking out.
But any president – even one this diminished – retains enormous power to shape public policy. And every sign indicates that Bush plans to use that power “right up to the moment that he leaves,” as Rove told Fox News.
There are some things the president can no longer do. Appoint strict conservatives to the federal bench, for one. In fact, Bush’s ability to fill any post requiring Senate confirmation is limited. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is still around partly because any replacement would face such tough grilling on Capitol Hill.
The president’s power to enact legislation has also drained away. Witness his failure to revise immigration laws. Many Republicans no longer feel afraid of, or loyal to, this White House and they are more interested in getting re-elected than burnishing the president’s legacy.
But counting out this president would be a huge mistake. In at least 10 ways, Bush can be a potent player during his last 18 months in office: