Last month a student in St. Paul asked President Bush, "What's the best thing about being president?"
He answered: "Well, in the most serious vein, I love coping with the problems in foreign affairs, and I'm determined to see this program that we're working on in education -- we call it America 2000 -- be a success. We've got to do better in education, we've got to do better in fighting against drugs and crime. A president can't do all of this, but he can have a program. Then the Congress has to come and help, you see. But I like that part of the job, trying to do something that'll help somebody, trying to do something that will enhance peace."
You would not know from his remarks Wednesday night that President Bush likes working with Congress to cope with national problems. He blamed Congress for not yet concluding action on proposals he challenged it to pass in 100 days last March 6 -- 100 days ago today. He ridiculed it with, "I wasn't asking Congress to deliver a piece of hot pizza in 30 minutes." That will make a great sound bite, but it is not going to accelerate congressional action on the crime and transportation legislation the president asked for in 100 days.
We agree that Congress could have and probably should have acted by now on a crime bill. The administration and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were not that far apart on a package at the beginning of the year. They had agreed on many elements of the package in the last Congress. But the 100-day schedule was not of over-riding importance. As for the transportation bill, the deadline was meaningless. The law the legislation replaces doesn't expire till late summer. Furthermore, as the president knew, one reason the Senate could not meet the deadline was the threat of a filibuster against the bill by a Republican senator.
The 100-day challenge was a bit silly. It came 774 days into the Bush administration. Where was the president's sense of urgency before March 6? It is not surprising that congressional Democrats are now challenging him in an equally silly, political fashion to produce a health-care proposal on schedule -- "by the 900th day" is the way Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell put it.
We expected all this next year. We had hoped president and Congress would have cooperated in 1991 to do what they could together. But it looks like the 1992 campaign has already begun.