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Bush is Doing Well, Analysts Say - 2001-08-03

President Bush's political fortunes appear to be on the upswing after a week in which he won congressional battles over energy and health care proposals. The president faces a much more difficult challenge in getting his agenda approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Some important victories for Mr. Bush this week in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. He won approval of his energy plan that includes limited oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a plan strongly opposed by environmentalists.

Mr. Bush also demonstrated political skill in crafting a compromise with lawmakers on legislation that will make it easier for patients to sue companies that provide health care.

The president also got good news this week from opinion polls that suggest growing public confidence in his ability to govern.

Stuart Rothenberg publishes an independent political newsletter here in Washington. "Most of the polls suggest that somewhere between 55 and 60 percent of Americans think he is doing a good job. The country is very polarized with Democrats still critical, so I don't think his numbers can get much higher than that," he says.

Other analysts believe Mr. Bush has also improved his international image in recent weeks. Commentator Joseph From, a guest on VOA's Issues in the News program, says the president's recent trip to Europe and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin were reassuring to nervous U.S. allies. "It came over that he was more accepted by allies, by the Russians. He scored with Putin, came away announcing that they had a kind of understanding on missile defense. So I think that the image of Bush is coming through much more positively and someone who is capable of governing," he says.

To be sure, Mr. Bush still has his critics both at home and abroad, especially when it comes to environmental issues. Tom Defrank is Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News. He says the administration is still trying to overcome the political fallout from the president's decision to withdraw U.S. support for the Kyoto treaty on global warming. "And I think that he is still out of the mainstream on this particular issue. And I know the White House has been kind of scrambling behind the scenes to come up with some sort of alternative that positions Bush in a way so that it does not look like he is just thumbing his nose at the rest of the world and also trying to do something for American environmentalists," he says.

Legislative action on the president's agenda will now shift to the Democrat-controlled Senate where Mr. Bush is expected to have a tougher time winning approval of his energy and health care proposals. According to political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, "The problem for the president is the long term. His agenda is really being eclipsed by the Democratic agenda. The Democrats are putting issues out, the Republicans and the president are reacting. That is not necessarily a great formula for success for George W. Bush. But for the moment, he has got his head above water and he is doing pretty well given some pretty tough issues facing him."

Analysts predict Mr. Bush will face his toughest political challenge yet in dealing with the Democrat-controlled Senate. But they also note that one of the hallmarks of the president's career to date is an uncanny ability to exceed expectations when dealing with the political opposition.