American politics has never been so fascinating. Like most second-term presidents, Bush is finding the going rough. But he's not making life any easier for himself.
Over the last few weeks, there's been Katrina, where Bush misjudged the mood and the needs of the nation and stood around making embarrassing jokes about his friend Trent Lott's porch while bodies floated down the flooded streets of New Orleans.
Then there was Harriet Miers. This time Bush managed to annoy his political allies as well as his opponents by proposing someone for the Supreme Court whose only qualification for the post seems to have been that she was a good friend of Bush. The president claimed that she would be the same person in 20 years time as she was now, while it soon transpired that over the past 20 years she had flip-flopped to such an extent that in 1988 she had donated money to the campaign of a certain, er, Al Gore. The unfortunate Miers, who shocked even some conservatives by saying that Bush was the smartest person she knew, has fallen on her sword. The last straw may well have been this press release last night from the Concerned Women for America who found that Miers had committed the unforgivable sin of defending, in pretty vague terms, a woman's right to have an abortion (no matter than on an other occasion, in a striking display of inconsistency, she seemed to call for the striking down of Roe v Wade).
Tomorrow (Friday), political Washington may well wet itself in a frenzy of commentary, as Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the leak of the name of CIA agent, will announce whom, if anyone, he will indict. This evening, the finger seems to be pointing at none other than Karl Rove, the president's closest political adviser.
So exciting has this become that tomorrow is being referred to as Fitzmas by many in the blogosphere. Given the enormous influence of blogs here, the term is now being widely bandied about by the mainstream media, too.
But it doesn't stop there. Now we learn that Vice President Cheney withheld some vital documents from the senate for its investigation of the use of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq war. Via the Daily Kos:
Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.
The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.
Where will this go from here? It's not use denying that Bush is a very skillful politician, and that he may come out of this smelling of roses yet. But the degree of animosity meted out against him, from the left and, increasingly, from the right, makes that task a very tricky one.
Merry Fitzmas everybody.