We don’t understand why President Bush took such an under-the-radar approach to his eventual support for the new housing bill that he signed into law on Wednesday.
For months, Bush said that he opposed the bill and would veto it if it passed Congress.
Then he changed his mind.
We suspect that political polls trumped Bush’s conservative principles and that he was convinced by senior members of his party that if he followed through with his veto threat, Republicans would face an even bleaker November.
But why, then, did he appear to want to sign the bill in secret?
Instead of orchestrating a high-visibility signing ceremony, in which he could assert Republican Party leadership in dealing with the three-headed monster of the housing-mortgage-and-credit crisis, Bush opted for a muted 7 a.m. affair with only his Treasury Secretary and a few aides present.
No members of Congress — either Republican or Democrat — were there to get a pen and a photo opportunity.
If he could, before the signing he probably would have borrowed an invisibility cloak from Harry Potter.
This seems to us to have been the worst possible outcome for Republicans and John McCain.
First, President Bush signed a bill that he had repeatedly insisted he would veto — appearing to capitulate to political pressure and to be following the Democrats rather than leading the country on the central issues in the economy.
Then, by signing the bill in near secret, he deprived Senator McCain and the Republican Party of an opportunity to stage their concern for beleaguered homeowners and their command of the country’s economic problems, complete with photo ops of presidential handshakes and congratulations to the Republican leadership, taking credit (however undeserved) for the government’s response to the housing crisis.
Whether the housing bill will actually help homeowners remains to be seen.
But it is clear that President Bush seems intent on it not helping Senator McCain or his struggling Republican Party.