The only thing Washington loves less than a lame-duck president is a completely unpredictable lame-duck president. They are scared that he could do anything, without real consultation. The Libby decision was made just like the decision to authorise torture: it was done outside the normal channels of government, blindsiding key aides, and shocking the establishment. If he did this once - and he has done it many times - he could do it again. And so, for all his failure and polling dive, he retains the capacity for surprise. Which is the capacity for relevance.
This is all he's got left. The mighty power of the presidency, a predilection for sudden action, and absolutely nothing to lose. This lame duck, in other words, could quack or fly without warning. And Washington, for all its increasingly open contempt for him, is rattled by the possibility. They don't know what's coming; but they know they'll have to adjust.
Bush is a defeated man, but like an alcoholic in the gutter, he still cannot admit it, even to himself. And that's what makes him so dangerous. He's surrounded with toadies, he's untouchable by congress or the courts, he still thinks he's on a mission from God, and he'll never, ever again have to answer to the American people for the things he does.
It could be a very rough 18 months...
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