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Published: Saturday, 6/16/2001

The count? Strike one for the Bush leaguers

It can't be easy being in George W. Bush's corner when so many in the media think he's beyond hope. The more compassionate analysis would assume the man who would be respected is not an intellectual oxymoron but rather a novice President with a string of bad luck.

Was it his fault the stock market tanked like the Titanic as he was rehearsing the two-step for the inaugural balls?

Can you blame the former Texas oil man or his cocoon of industry elite for soaring gas prices eating up what savings the stock market left? OK, maybe that's not a good example of bum raps against George the Younger.

But you know the Chinese were trying to stick it to our linguistically challenged leader with that tiff over our spy plane.

Beijing gave as good as it got by letting the Bushies twist in the wind with the downed Navy crew and eventually allowing the plane to return in pieces.

The China spy plane flap was a character-building experience for the Bushster, but he'll get over it. The GOP loss of control of the Senate barely months into W.'s honeymoon was worse. The all-Republican all-the-time euphoria on Capitol Hill was crushed by a reversal of fortunes. But is the T-ball playing Texan responsible?

Granted, the Republicans were drunk with power when they wrangled enough legal rulings to win the White House. For one, brief, shining moment, the Grand Old Party ruled.

True it was with an iron fist more fitting a landslide victory than an ultra-thin, hanging-chad upset, but you can't fault W. for trying to fit in with the Trent Lott and Tom Delay crowd.

Considering the former frat boy went straight from finding himself at 40 to suddenly becoming head of the free world in just over a decade, the on-the-job learning curve has to be a killer.

Ever the model student, W. has thrown himself into studying and reviewing issues no matter how much they may have been studied and reviewed by previous administrations. Critics complain crucial time and opportunity is being squandered while the Bush administration reinvents the wheel.

Skeptics go so far as to suggest the President is merely using his myriad studies, task forces, and commissioned panels as stalling tactics for anything that looks politically risky.

But let's assume, like those pesky media types do, that Mr. Bush doesn't have the requisite gray matter to even plan such calculating moves. Regardless of whether the man is still getting lost on his way to the rest room, it's hard to dismiss his insatiable thirst for knowledge in view of unforeseen lessons learned.

Case in point is the hand-picked team of scientists Mr. Bush assigned to study global warming. Was it a manufactured phenomenon -- as he suspected - or, by some stretch of the imagination, a real, serious threat to mankind caused by a polluting mankind.

Who would have thunk the climate change experts would embrace the latter reasoning, confounding the Bush administration's policy of denial.

Supporting the contention that Mr. Bush's spate of inquiries on matters with political minefields are sincere is the newest blue-ribbon panel assembled to study again how to keep Social Security solvent.

The Democratic and Republican co-chairs of the Bush-picked advisory group are already hinting that their recommendations - not unlike those of the global warming experts - will mirror the conclusions of previous studies, task forces, and commissions.

Raising the retirement age and reducing benefits before any talk of private investing can be broached is not the kind of advice this President wants to hear.

What's a delegating chief executive to do when his advisers come up with convictions he disagrees with but can't outright disavow because he selected the pinheads himself?

Are the unsettling events of the past few months a series of luckless breaks for the new administration or predictable Bush-prone blunders?

The darned liberal media can't differentiate between the two, but those in the Bush league can. It's tough to fool them.

Marilou Johanek is a Blade editorial writer. E-mail her at mjohanek@theblade.com.



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