One would have to believe in Santa Claus to believe the Bush administration and Congress will agree on a tax-cut package aimed at stimulating economic growth before Christmas. Both the prospects and the intentions of the various squabbling factions in Washington are strictly negative. Their interest is in politics, not policy.
So the nation will get politics in heavy dosages from Capitol Hill hearings the Democrats arranged to put the administration on the defensive. Their goal is eminently attainable: President Bush has neither his own mind nor his own troops in order. Dithering is the message from the White House -- and the surprising thing is that it seems to be deliberate. Despite subversive agitation from House Republicans and a revolt led by Housing Secretary Jack Kemp within his own Cabinet, Mr. Bush is playing for time. He wants to make an anti-recession program the centerpiece of his State of the Union message still six weeks in the future.
"When the economy goes down, a president takes the hits," Mr. Bush told the press last Thursday. That, however, is only part of the story. From the standpoint of Republican professionals, his plunge in the opinion polls not only hurts himself but GOP candidates across the landscape. Hence, the president finds himself under mounting pressure not only from Democrats who suddenly smell blood but from his own Republicans.