Bush Sets a Record for Second-Term Fatigue

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All two-term presidents seem to suffer from a fatigue factor, but none like what George W. Bush is going through.

The Bush second term has been battered by the never-ending war in Iraq, a failing policy on the environment, a mess on the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and the self-destruction of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. There are other flaps as well, but you get the picture.

Poll after poll show Bush's popularity and performance in office is in the mid-30s or so. Vice President Cheney has embittered friends as well as enemies with his rhetoric and behavior.

With Bush's well-known stubborn streak in play, it is hard to see how things could improve much in the next 21 months.

As matters stand, a large contingent of U.S. troops will still be in Iraq when Bush goes home to Crawford in January 2009. And with a Democratic majority confronting him, Bush will have the veto pen as his best weapon.

Let's take a look at how other recent two-termers stack up:

  • Even a popular war hero like President Dwight D. Eisenhower had second-term blues. Ike had some health problems during that time as he tried to deal with a Democratic majority.
  • Richard Nixon never made it through the last four years. He resigned in disgrace before he was tossed out of office for the crimes of Watergate.
  • Ronald Reagan made it through a second term, but a Democratic Congress battled him even harder in the final months.
  • Bill Clinton was impeached by the House but saved from removal from office in the Senate. He was bogged down in the Monica Lewinsky affair and other investigations by the Republican majority.
  • In the coming months, appointed officials in the Bush administration are going to be returning to private life. The president is going to have some difficulty filling those posts as a weakened lame duck.

    He can blame himself for much of it.