OUR TIMID PRESIDENT….Tapped is right to needle Joe Klein for his silly statement that George Bush is “a man of real convictions who has not been afraid to take unpopular positions.” If there’s one thing that seems clear about Bush, it is, as Klein says later, that he is a “political animal.”

Bush is aggressive, he gives no quarter, and, in fact, pursues only popular programs. Tax cuts? Check. War with Iraq? Check. Bashing the UN? Check. As Tapped notes, on the only genuinely tricky decision he’s had to make, therapeutic cloning, he took a wishy washy stance guaranteed not to offend anyone too badly. The same thing seems to be happening right now in the Middle East too, where Bush has so far been unwilling to take a bold stance that carries with it any serious risk of failure.

I suspect Bush is vulnerable here. There are issues on which the popular position is not obvious, or on which the popular position conflicts strongly with the wishes of his conservative base. Admittedly, with national security as a backdrop it won’t be easy to force him to take clear stands on these issues, but it’s not impossible either. A good candidate should be able to figure out how to do it.

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