THE REAL SWING VOTE

Paul Gigot has an excellent column today, as usual, on Lincoln Chafee, the persnickety Rhode Island Republican who could single-handedly kill Bush’s budget in the Senate. Gigot tries to corner him into why he wouldn’t vote for the current package – due for consideration by the Senate next week – and gets nothing but incoherent cantankerousness. John McCain is another danger, of course. But an all-or-nothing approach is not the best way to proceed right now. People often over-estimate the damage to a president of being upstaged by Congress. They key is to co-opt and adjust, as Clinton showed. In that respect, I’m amazed by Dick Cheney’s alleged comment to Republican Senators this week that losing the budget resolution would mean “handing the keys” to the Senate to Tom Daschle. A slightly more modest tax cut wouldn’t be the end of the world. Neither is McCain-Feingold as long as Bush manages to co-opt it when it hits his desk. The president is always relevant – and in these nineteenth century days, is often going to be reactive to the dominant Congress. So sit back and enjoy. As long as Bush doesn’t become completely reactive, it’s a structure suited to Bush’s passive-aggressive character.