CNN's Wolf Blitzer said that when President Bush "puts his mind to something, he usually gets his way, at least over these past five years." In fact, while Bush has threatened to veto legislation he opposed during his five years in office, he has never actually done so. Additionally, he has reversed course in cases where he initially vowed to see his agenda realized despite any opposition and has rebuked Congress only to change his stance later.
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In a discussion during the February 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room with Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and CNN contributor Bill Bennett about the bipartisan opposition to a deal that would permit a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates to manage port terminals in six major U.S. cities, host Wolf Blitzer asserted that when President Bush "puts his mind to something, he usually gets his way, at least over these past five years." Blitzer's assertion came a day after President Bush, whose administration supports the deal, vowed to veto any legislation passed by Congress that would delay or override it.
After Brazile noted the broad opposition to the deal among members of Congress, Blitzer replied, "You say there's no way he's going to win this debate, but a lot of times, Democrats and some Republicans, they've underestimated this president." While Bush has threatened to veto legislation he opposed during his five years in office, he has never actually done so. In addition, he has reversed course in cases where he initially vowed to see his agenda realized despite any opposition and has also rebuked Congress only to change his stance later.
Creation of cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security
After Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) proposed the creation of a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security in October 2001, the Bush administration came out against the idea, with then-press secretary Ari Fleisher telling reporters during a press briefing that Bush was advising members of Congress that there "does not need to be a cabinet-level" Office of Homeland Security.
On May 30, 2002, then-director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge stated that he would "probably recommend" that Bush veto a bill that created a cabinet-level DHS. Congress continued to press ahead with proposed legislation, and in a televised address on July 6, 2002, Bush reversed his administration's previous position, urging "Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people." Bush signed H.R.5005 into law, creating the cabinet-level office, on November 25, 2002.
McCain's anti-torture amendment, Patriot Act extension
Bush threatened to veto a 2005 military spending bill because of a provision inserted by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that banned torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. As The Washington Post reported, Vice President Dick Cheney was strongly opposed to any limits on interrogation methods, pushing for an exemption to McCain's amendment for the CIA. Nevertheless, the Senate voted 90-9 to approve the bill. On December 30, 2005, Bush signed the spending bill into law; at the same time, Bush also signed into law a one-month extension to the USA Patriot Act, despite having declared earlier that anything short of a full reauthorization of the bill would be unacceptable. Some members of Congress had balked at a full reauthorization, saying the act compromised the civil liberties of innocent Americans.
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002
During the 2000 presidential campaign, then-Texas Gov. Bush was asked whether he would veto the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold bill. He answered, "Yes, I would. ... I think it does restrict free speech for individuals." Nevertheless, after the House approved the bill in February 2002 and the Senate adopted the House version in March, Bush signed it into law on March 27, saying "I believe that this legislation, although far from perfect, will improve the current financing system for federal campaigns."
Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
Bush initially opposed the central provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which created a regulatory body to oversee the accounting industry in the wake of several high-profile corporate finance scandals. After both the House and the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve the legislation, he reversed his position, as The New York Times noted on July 31, 2002, and cast himself "as the protector of the small investor and the rank-and-file worker" when he signed the bill into law a day earlier.
On August 10, 2005, Bush signed into law a $286 billion, six-year transportation bill containing a record number of pork-barrel pet projects inserted by members of Congress -- 6,371 -- according to The Washington Post; this despite the fact that Bush had earlier vowed to veto any bill that exceeded $256 billion. He later raised the limit to $284 billion -- still $2 billion lower than the final cost of the bill.
9-11 Commission investigation and Rice's testimony
CNN reported in January 2002 that Bush personally asked then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to limit any congressional investigation into the terrorist attacks of September 11. The report also indicated that Vice President Dick Cheney made a similar and rare personal appeal to Daschle, insinuating that a congressional investigation into the attacks "would take resources and personnel away from the effort in the war on terrorism," as Daschle told reporters. In May of that year, as Congress moved forward with plans to establish an independent commission, Bush voiced opposition publicly, saying that any investigation should be under the purview of the congressional intelligence committees. Nevertheless, Congress created the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the "9-11 Commission") at the end of 2002.
Later, during a March 28, 2004, interview with CBS' Ed Bradley, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice defended President Bush's insistence that she not be required to testify before the committee, citing "a longstanding principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress." However, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, many Republicans, including members of the 9-11 Commission, joined Democrats in pressuring the White House to allow Rice to testify, and Bush reversed his position. Rice testified on March 30.
Social Security reform
Following his 2004 re-election, Bush made Social Security reform a central part of his agenda for 2005. In a press conference immediately following the election, he told reporters, "Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it." But by February 2005, Bush was already acknowledging during a trip to promote his proposal to overhaul Social Security -- which emphasized privately managed investment accounts -- that the accounts would not address the program's projected financial problems.
Public support for his proposal stayed low, and by September 2005, congressional Republicans had declared the issue all but dead. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) told The Washington Times, "It's off the radar," while Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), said, "Social Security? I think not much is going to happen there this year." Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) also told the paper, "[Social Security] is not likely to be part of any future agenda in Congress." Nevertheless, the paper reported in December 2005 that Bush vowed not to give up on Social Security reform.
Nomination of Miers to Supreme Court
When Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court on October 3, 2005, he told reporters, "I picked the best person I could find." As conservative opposition to Miers's nomination mounted through the month, the White House rejected any notion of withdrawing her nomination. However Bush withdrew Miers's nomination on October 27.
A Washington Post report published one day before Miers's withdrawal noted that, in a 1993 speech, Miers characterized the abortion debate as "surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual women's [sic] right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion." The Post report also noted that, in a separate 1993 speech, "Miers said the public should not blame judges when courts step in to solve" problems such as poverty. The day those speeches were reported, the conservative group Concerned Women for America -- which had not previously taken a position on Miers -- called for her nomination to be withdrawn, then attacked Miers's speeches in a separate press release.
The day after Miers withdrew, New York Post Washington bureau chief Deborah Orin reported that according to "Republican sources," President Bush dropped his effort to appoint Miers partly because "conservatives were livid over a 1993 speech in which she sounded pro-choice on abortion." The Los Angeles Times also noted that day that Miers's 1993 speech on abortion may have been "[o]ne of the final straws" that doomed the nomination, and reported that Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson, who had previously endorsed Miers, "said his group would not have been able to support her candidacy because of the speech."
From the February 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer:
BRAZILE: Well, I agree with Bill [Bennett] on this one. I think it's a bad deal. It's the wrong time, wrong deal, and there's no way the president is going to win this debate. Members of Congress of both parties -- he's managed to unify people that normally don't stand together on anything. And now, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are saying, "No, Mr. President, we would like to keep this in American -- at least on this issue, American hands."
BLITZER: You say there's no way he's going to win this debate, but a lot of times, Democrats and some Republicans, they've underestimated this president. When he puts his mind to something, he usually gets his way, at least over these past five years.