Has Bush Entered The Fray?

by on November 4th, 2007

As Hillary Clinton fights allegations of “doubletalk” and ideological inconsistency from inside the Democratic Party, she is on the receiving end of masked, yet stern, criticism from within the White House as well.

Despite his promise not to engage in primary politics, President Bush made a number of critiques of Democratic policy this week that appear to be directed towards Mrs. Clinton. In a speech at the fall conference of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Bush blasted Democratic plans for health care reform and warned attendees that bills such as the controversial SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) are “a trick on the American people.” He went on to zero in on the failures of health care reform in the 90’s.

“We’ve tried, by the way, here in Washington to have a major effort to put the federal government square in the center of health care–in 1994–and the legislation didn’t pass,” Bush said. “Believe me, the Democrats in Congress who supported that legislation have learned from the experience. So instead of pushing to federalize health care all at once, they’re pushing for the same goal through a series of incremental steps.”

The comment was considered by many to be an obvious swipe at Clinton, who headed a 1994 Task Force on National Health Care Reform that is mostly remembered for its inability to pass substantive legislation. Her past health care debacle has become a key talking point for conservatives, who are already gearing up for a general election effort against the former First Lady

Depending on what side of the aisle you’re on, Bush’s statement may or may not have merit. However, the question at hand is not whether or not Hillary Clinton will be able to competently reform our health care system–an issue that is soon to be debated from here to eternity–but a much simpler one.

Is George Bush using the presidential pulpit to take subtle shots at the Hillary Clinton on behalf of the GOP?

White-House Spokeswoman Dana Perino recently attempted to quell such rumors with a press release stating that the “the president has no intention of getting involved in presidential politics;” but many, including myself, are less than convinced.

Sure, it’s evident that Mr. Bush isn’t about to start stumping for a GOP hopeful, but by framing his congressional battles deftly he may be aiming to bolster an offensive from the right. Recently, the president has been picking more fights than usual; a strategy likely geared towards shifting election coverage away from the Iraq war and towards ideological distinctions that the GOP believes elevates its appeal.

One such example is Bush’s sudden emergence as a fiscal conservative.

After not vetoing a single spending bill under the Republican led congress, Bush has become surprisingly adamant about ceasing wasteful spending. In late September, he threatened to veto 11 of 12 proposed spending bills if they weren’t revised, and last month he made good on his promise to veto the SCHIP bill, citing it as an example of bloated government

Such a shift in policy will assist the GOP nominee in arguments that Republicans are more fiscally responsible then their Democratic counterparts, especially if the Democratic nominee ends up being Hillary Clinton, who Bush is apparently confident will get the nod.

In excerpts from The Evangelical President, a new book by Examiner White House correspondent Bill Sammon, Bush is reported as being convinced Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and will lose in the general election. “I think our candidate can beat her, but it’s going to be a tough race,” he said in an Oval Office interview, in which he later stated that he “would work to see to it that a Republican wins.”

With the power of incumbency providing a vast array of political weaponry, Mr. Bush is clearly in a capable position to make good on his word.

Daniel Lawton