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Immigration compromise a rare bright spot for Bush

Published May 20, 2007


WASHINGTON - For President Bush, the past week brought a very good piece of news: Talks on an immigration overhaul produced a deal between the Bush administration and a bipartisan group of senators. The agreement fed hopes the president might achieve a long-sought goal and see his second term produce a significant domestic accomplishment.

An elated White House rushed out a Bush statement that celebrated the complicated compromise as containing everything the president most wanted. "A much-needed solution to the problem of illegal immigration, " he called it. In case Bush's glee was not clear on paper, he came to the South Lawn 90 minutes later to make a statement before television cameras.

The reaction spoke volumes about how little there is to cheer about at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"It's a port in the storm and an oasis in the dust, " Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker said about the immigration deal.

For one thing, Bush cannot seem to get a break on his people:

- His announcement of Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute as a new "war czar" was viewed as too little, too late.

- Bush caved on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned Thursday after weeks of controversy over a generous bank pay package for his girlfriend.

- Bush received a farewell visit from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose successor, Gordon Brown, has signaled there will be a change in his country's war role.

-A week ago, Bush aides boasted privately their strategy of waiting out the firestorm surrounding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales seemed to have worked. Then a fresh burst of news put Gonzales' job back in doubt.

A second good-news story - a trade deal between congressional Democratic leaders and the White House - was drowned out.

All this makes the immigration announcement that much more significant.

It shows Bush still is a player, can effectively work both sides of the aisle and really is that "compassionate conservative" he promised he was in 2000, said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

"The president at long last has come around to the realization that he has to find common ground with the Congress - or accomplish nothing, " Baker said.

Jennifer Loven covers the White House for the Associated Press.

[Last modified May 20, 2007, 00:51:31]

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