Political Capital with John Harwood

George Bush And His Veto Pen: Why It's Cocked


Even though semi-professional historian Karl Rove has left the White House, they are still paying attention to past administrations at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They're especially paying attention to how Bill Clinton revived his fortunes in the 1990s by fighting with the GOP Congress over spending.

Bush's Budget Flip-Flop

Now George Bush is doing the same thing, discovering the veto pen that he kept in his holster throughout his first term. He's threatening to veto Democratic spending bills and he means it. Why?


First, Democrats are in control of Congress. Ratings for Congress are even lower than for Bush. Always fun to pick a fight with a weakling.

Second, Bush wants to repair his spending record with an eye to his legacy. He does not want Alan Greenspan's memoir to be the last word on this subject.

Third, he wants to unite his party so it doesn't get whipped again in 2008. A message of spending restraint and tax cuts--which positions him squarely against Democrats, whatever he did in the past--can do that. Republicans may divide on immigration, trade, and abortion, but taxes and spending represents Republican ground as strong as the anti-terror war does on foreign policy.

The Budget Call

Questions?  Comments?  Write to politicalcapital@cnbc.com.