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May 10, 2005


The way the GOP has been playing everything lately has been somewhat surprising to me. Congress' polling numbers have been in a freefall and Bush isn't doing much better. But more than power I think this may be more of a spoiled brat responce. Bush has gotten everything handed to him throughout his life and when things went wrong Daddy bailed him out. Now that he is the most powerfull man in the world there isn't anyone that can do that for him. So he's jumping up and down in a tantrum and can't quite figure out what is happening to him.

Congress on the other hand is just terrified of it's base, imo. They absolutely understand that they have been successfull at pandering to them but the bill has finally come due. So they see less risk in alienating the more moderate people in the party in the hopes that they won't lose them come 06 and 08. I hope we can capitalise on that but wouldn't call myself overly optimistic.

The wild cards are the few moderate gooper congress critters that still respect the traditions of the houses. They have to weigh whether the onslaught by the wingnuts and the power hungry will be survivable in their coming re-elections.

I thought it was veeerrrrryyy interesting that yesterday when NPR interviewed Hagel and asked him what he thought of the "deafening silence" from Colin Powell on the Bolton nomination, Hagel at first tried to dodge without answering, but then simply said "it has been noted." He had earlier said something to the effect that "nothing yet had convinced him Bolton wasn't qualified for the job," which I thought was a very subtle hedge; the other way of reading that comment was "I'm not committed yet, and something may come up that would lead me to vote against his confirmation." It thought that was even more significant in that the interview must have been recorded sometime in the morning or very early afternoon, but the Senators and their staff didn't get access to some more of the stuff on Bolton until yesterday. In short, when Hagel did the interview, he probably hadn't seen the testimony from Powell's CoS that revealed that Armitage and Powell had decided that Bolton had blathered on so often and so irresponsibly that they decided to reprimand him by insisting that he make no more public statements without first vetting those statements through Armitage.

Your interpretation of how things may or may not be linked could very well be true, but for somebody who likes to think he can read political tactics and strategy, the Bushies' recent moves really have me baffled.

Emptywheel commented at Steve Clemons' blog that the Bush strategy has turned Lugar, Hagel, Chafee and the rest of them from Senators with a consultative role into court eunuchs (although without the power they had in some Chinese dynasties).

This is an apt description, and one that they can't be very proud of, if they ever think about themselves in any sort of candid way.

Bush evidently does seem to have been blindsided by the magnitude of the opposition to Bolton. Whenever the R's comment that the Dems' obstruction or opposition is "unprecedented" you know they mean "unprecedented in my (albeit short) experience." They thought the Dems would go on being rolled for another 4 years, but Reid is much cannier than anyone they have dealt with in a long, long time.

If they have you baffled, then it's going to be unreadable to many in DC, including the players themselves. Bolton and the nuclear option both look like a close, unpredictable vote. And, I contend, Bush can't afford to lose either one. He's out of political capital, Iraq continues to underperform and the economy teeters on the edge, as usual. Once the housing bubble bursts, or China stops supporting the deficit, say buh-bye to what passes for economic 'growth'. He's already lost on SS. He's nowhere on health care, and he's losing the security moms.

And then what?

Mimikatz, you got that right about Reid. The thing is, this bunch (especially Cheney) is likely to push beyond the commitee right to the Senate on Bolton. Bush will have to stand up to Cheney to kill the Bolton nom. Think that'll happen?

Isn't there another connection between Bolton and the nuclear option?

If Bolton gets out of committee on a forced party line vote, and especially if Lugar steamrolls the Dems to get it, isn't there some hope that the Dems would filibuster the nomination on the floor?

And if they do and Frist hasn't yet pulled the trigger on the nuclear option, I can't imagine that Bush and his evil sidekicks could sit still for the nuclear option not to cover Bolton, too.

And if they do that, isn't their cover story -- "it's only about judges" -- blown?

That'd be a good one, kainah. And I know there are some Senators already considering that. In fact, I was secretly hoping that that was going to be the silver lining of Bolton's nomination making it out of committee just prior to Justice Sunday.

Now that opportunity presents itself again. If that nomination reaches the floor without action on Biden's document request, you can pretty much guarantee a filibuster, I would think.

I'll admit I'm not as perspicacious as you on political strategy, DHinMI, but this move doesn't baffle me in the least. I think my Blair/Bush post is actually a description of what is going on.

What Bush (and, apparently, Blair) are doing at a moment of weakness is raising the stakes. They're making support more significantly more costly all the while making it clear that if they don't get support, they're going to lose BIG. In other words, they're saying "Chafee, we're asking you to undergo a very painful castration [I am quite fond of my eunuch comment], but if you don't our entire empire will fail." Or, as I put it in the Blair/Bush post, "Chafee, I know you're really having second thoughts about robbing that bank, but really, we have no one else who can do the actual hold-up. You're going to have to take this gun and point it at that teller." So, if Bush wins, Chafee will never ever rebel again. (I suspect Bush and Cheney did something similar with McCain, because they've kept him remarkably behaved of late.)

For this reason, I think few people are going to vote for Bolton and against the nuclear option. Chafee will (I think he's been given dispensation--but it won't matter because he's a eunuch, after all.) But for everyone else, they're facing precisely the same kind of abuse of power if Bolton is put through without fulfilling Lugar's agreements with Biden--and more importantly, if Bolton is put through without a recommendation from the committee.

More importantly, the calculations in the prisoners dilemma (once I get some work done, I think I'll come back and make this a post). Pre-Schiavo, the party had infinite power, so there was no chance anyone was going to cross it. But post-Schiavo, the party is clearly being forced into actions that will diminish its power (I think the nuclear option is an example)--but it can't do anything about it because it's "base" of rabid fundamentalists are too strong. But that base is not the base of Hagel, Chafee, or Voinovich. At some point, they're going to realize that they will keep power better if they find a way not to be dragged into the projects of the fundies. And if, as I suggested, these are becoming increasingly linked (this is an area I disagree with Clemons), then they may bail sooner or later.

It looks now as if the timetable is to have the SFRC vote Thursday and then bring one of the judges up next week. (Goal posts moved again.) That would put the judge vote before the Bolton floor vote. But with all the latest info that Steve Clemons and Laura Rozen have posted, there is more and more chance that the Dems will start reading all the new Bolton info into the record and draw the connections between stonewalling on the rest, misuse and massaging of intel, overstating enemies' strength, lying, and corruption (having a pal as a $100,000 plus consultant while he services a roster of foreign and corporate clients with his top secret clearance).

How much of this can Snow White Murkowski and the Seven Eunuchs (and Voinovich) stand?

Mimikatz, the question is whether or not they will defy Cheney. It's clear he won't back down, even if Bush wanted to. Or, conversely, will Junior defy Unca Dick?

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