Bush gets down to unfinished business
With a meaningful 52% of the popular vote, President-elect Obama’s life changed forever last night. But November 4th also serves to demark the final 10 weeks of the administration of President G.W. Bush. One can imagine what remains on his plate during the odd period of time that exists between today and January 20th. Here are some straightforward topics:
– Presidential Medals of Freedom will have to be awarded. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Fed Chair Ben Bernake, SEC Chief Christopher Fox will all be candidates for their efforts to stem the U.S. financial crisis;
– U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney will have his Secret Service protection extended for the traditional six months, just as with Al Gore and Dan Quayle. But the real question will be if that’s enough time. With two wars underway and plenty of guys in Gitmo (but with friends on the outside), who thinks Mr. Cheney is less of a target in August 2009 than he is in July? It will be fascinating to see how then-President Omaba reacts to the invariable briefing about the threats to Mr. Cheney’s safety when the six month extension that President Bush will provide expires on July 21, 2009.
Then there are the harder ones:
– pardon The Hon. Conrad Black; having embarrased his many friends in high places, Mr. Black won’t be expecting people like Dr. Henry Kissinger to be making a plea to Mr. Bush to commute his prison sentence. But that doesn’t mean that the proposal won’t hit Mr. Bush’s desk. You can imagine that most of Barbara Amiel’s energies will be going into that effort right now, and it might actually come to pass.
– deal with Iran’s nuclear threat: it is hard to know exactly how this would play out, but if there was a time for an Israeli F-15 strike against Iran’s nuclear capability, it is the next 10 weeks. President Bush can’t possibly want to trust his successor with that unfinished business, although the current political upheaval in Israel isn’t helpful. Regardless, Mr. Obama’s view of how one should deal with such geopolitical realities is dearly unknown, and neither the Israelis nor the Bushies will likely want to run the risk of Mr. Obama exercising the unwritten veto over such an attack (they’d have to fly by U.S. planes over Iraq, after all). NYT columnist Maureen Dowd doesn’t call the President Elect “Bambi” for nothing, some might say. How gracious it would be of Mr. Bush to recognize that Mr. Obama’s ability to mend political fences around the world is enhanced if this is “taken care of” prior to January 20th. Mr. Bush’s displeasure at being the fall guy might be overcome by his conviction about the wisdom of the mission.