NEWPORT, R.I., June 28 — He looked uncharacteristically dejected as he approached the lectern, fiddling with papers as he talked and avoiding the sort of winking eye contact he often makes with reporters. And then President Bush did something he almost never does: He admitted defeat.
"A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn`t find a common ground," he said an hour after his immigration plan died on Capitol Hill. "It didn`t work."
It was, in the end, simply a statement of reality after the Senate buried his proposal to overhaul immigration laws. ..
In March, he told an audience in Guatemala that he had to get an immigration bill to his desk by August to have a chance of success. After that, he reasoned, the congressional budget calendar and the presidential election campaign would make it impossible. But he and Rove remained supremely confident that they would prevail. Just 17 days ago, while in Bulgaria, Bush brushed off pessimism about the legislation. "I`ll see you at the bill-signing," he predicted.
By Thursday, his tone had changed. He made no pretense that the immigration initiative might still be revived before he leaves office. Instead, he indicated that he is moving on to other issues. He would probably not admit to being humbled, but he appeared at least chagrined.
At one point during his Iraq speech, Bush pleaded for patience with Iraqis trying to pass reconciliation legislation. "In a democracy," he said, "the head of government just can`t decree the outcome."
The audience laughed. Bush smiled wanly and joked: "I`m not saying that`s what I`d like to do."
It`s just not fair. If only those Guatemalans could vote in American elections already, then poor Mr. Bush wouldn`t be so sad. But that nasty Constitution has some technicality in it about only American citizens getting to vote, so the President`s fondest dream couldn`t come true.
Seriously, let`s stop and think about what an enormous waste of six years it has been for the President, aided and abetted by the almost the entire American Establishment, to pursue his delusion of imposing his immigration obsession on the citizenry. Even leaving aside how much better the immigration situation would be if Bush had followed his oath and simply enforced the damn laws, imagine what he would have been able to accomplish legislatively in other areas without wasting time, energy, and political capital on a losing proposition like this.