Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back when Bill Clinton was president, one of the things that drove his opponents nuts and gave pleasure to his fans was the fact that he was lucky in his enemies. It was often noted that it was easy for Clinton to score political points against such unappealing figures as Newt Gingrich and Ken Starr.
It's a phrase that's easy to find in clips from that bygone time, if you have access to Nexis or some other database. "And, as always, Clinton was unusually lucky -- especially in his enemies," Newsweek wrote in 1999, after he had survived impeachment.
But you don't hear it said during the Bush presidency -- which is odd, because President Bush has been, arguably, even luckier in his enemies than Clinton ever was.
The appearance of Osama bin Laden in yet another tape fills any American with disdain and a sincere wish for his head.
Then there's Saddam Hussein. To Bush, he may have been the "guy who tried to kill my dad," but even opponents of the war in Iraq had to concede that it was unpleasant to consider any alternative scenario that would have left this man in charge.
Bush has also lucked out in terms of his domestic enemies. I'm not talking about figures like the oft-cited Michael Moore, but the Democratic Party in general. The Economist last week summed up the prevailing wisdom that, although Americans have turned, to a large extent, against Bush, they're not pumped up by the thought of a nation led by the likes of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
Bush leads the nation at a time when we have real enemies abroad and his party has weak enemies at home. For all that, his poll numbers are famously in a tailspin. The number of people who disapprove of the job he's doing outnumber those who approve by 24 percent, even in a poll conducted by supposedly friendly Fox News.
One wonders, where would Bush be if it weren't for enemies of such caliber?
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.