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November 03, 2005


Is Rove's departure really possible?

Sources close to Rove said they do not believe the strategist is in the clear, but are confident the prosecutor will determine Rove did nothing illegal.

White House critics said Rove's continued presence would expose Bush as a hypocrite. They cite his campaign promise in 2000 to run an ethical government that asks "not only what is legal but what is right" and his 2004 pledge, later softened, to fire anyone involved in the CIA leak.

Political pressure is rising from the outside. A few conservatives have suggested it is time for Rove to go. William A. Niskanen, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, told Reuters on Tuesday that Bush has to "sacrifice" some top aides starting with Rove, who he said has given good campaign advice but poor guidance on getting legislation passed.

This is a lose-lose for loser Bush.

"A few conservatives have suggested it is time for Rove to go."

Why only a few? Rove must be overwhelmingly despised in DC. Who in their right mind would ever "like" Rove? But he obviously still inspires a lot of fear, so no one wants to speak up. Rove will be hard to get rid of . . . he's Bush's Rasputin and remember what it took the Czarists to rid the royal family of him.

My, my, my, the knives are coming out for Karl, aren't they? I actually doubt that he's universally despised among DC GOPers - but he's certainly despised by the ones he's shanked. The rest may neither like nor dislike him personally, but he has worn out his usefulness, so it's time to toss him over the back of the sleigh. "Nothing personal, Karl - it's just business."

As for the war, I'm gonna be cynical and say that the key to a politically successful bail-out strategy is to pin the blame on the Iraqis.

-- Rick

Them or the Iranians, Rick?

from First Read:

USA Today, writing from DeLay's Texas district where he faces a potentially tough fight for re-election, rounds up the GOP's ethical hotspots. "Even before the Libby indictments, the DeLay case was a tipping point for independent analysts... They now say it's conceivable Democrats could win the 15 House seats or six Senate seats they need for majorities. Among their reasons: The party still has time to recruit strong candidates, it has good opportunities in states where GOP officials are in trouble, and it doesn't need as many new House seats as Republicans did in 1994 (15 versus 42)."

And Abramoff is still out there.

I hope Fitzgerald has something else up his sleeve. The fulcrum is the conspiracy, and the only way to move it is by indicting someone on Espionage or Intelligence Identities. Those are the crimes that would be politically difficult to pardon, and which might make a cabalista flip.

So far our gains may still be reversed. A pardon can nullify much of the potential for the Special Counsel's work to shed more light on the true extent of the crimes, and an invasion of Syria will (sad as it is to say) nullify most of the public opinion gains. So far we're pushing down hard on the other side of the balance, but we need that fulcrum to move.

Rove's departure is inevitable ... but every day he lingers, our political fortunes improve.

And of course before Nov 2006, you can count on either a) another 12 months of stagnant wages and job growth b) plus a deflating housing bubble or c) an outright collapsing housing bubble and/or d) an outright recession

But certainly those will cause Americans to rally round the President. He *is* resolved, you know.

DemFromCT --

"Them or the Iranians?" In tinfoil-hat mode, a case could be made that Iranian intel has pulled off the most brilliant sandbagging op of the 21st century. They've bumped off their old enemy Saddam, got their hooks deep into Iraq, made our name mud while miring us deep in the sand, provided a hard-to-argue-with justification for their nuke program, and incidentally castrated their liberal domestic opposition. A quinti-fecta.

But to my original point, I'm cynically serious, or seriously cynical. The Vietnam antiwar movement became a political albatross around Dems' collective neck, *even though it was right.* It's a cognitive-dissonance thing. Count on it that smart GOPers are already planning on how to hang who-lost-Iraq on Dems, knowing that the public will resist admitting that they got suckered into this thing. Bush will vanish down the memory hole and we'll be left holding the sack, unless we put forth a persuasive counter-narrative that hangs the blame on someone safely removed from American politics. Who better than those ungrateful Iraqis?

-- Rick

blame Chalabi. Everyone blames Chalabi. But the scandal won't let R's escape this time.... he was their guy.

Rick, I think the whole "discredited anti-war" thing from the 60s/70s has always been a bit overblown by conventional wisdom. The Democratic coalition collapsed because 1) the party was itself responsible for the Vietnam quagmire; and 2) the debacle coincided with the rise of civil rights and its attendant issues (riots/busing/welfare), which moved the South in toto and many northern ethnic communities away from the Democratic party. The long-haired hippies-morphing into-wine and brie eaters caricature of Dems did some collateral damage, but I think the earlier issues were what empowered the GOP (and Carter's bad luck with Iran -- hostages and gas prices -- cinched the deal).

As far as the current situation....I think Bush has LBJ's and Carter's problems -- bad war/bad economy/incompetence -- plus Nixon's -- corruption -- on a so-far smaller scale (but the term is young). Republicans trying to sell "But the other guys are SCARY and you've always HATED them" is more analogous to what Dems tried with Reagan in 1980. That strategy even seemed to be working for a while -- polls showed a tight contest right through election day. But, in the end, the voters made their usual "this isn't working, so we change" decision. I expect the same just ahead.

demtom, not also Myerson's artivcle today:

But of course the Republicans are in touch. They're in touch with Grover Norquist's weekly conclave of right-wing groups, where all manner of ideological campaigns get hatched. They're in touch with their think tanks, which spent two decades developing an unworkable plan to privatize Social Security -- never mind that they finally rolled it out at the very moment that private-sector retirement plans were in collapse. They're so in touch with their base, Harriet Miers notwithstanding, that nearly everyone outside their base is abandoning them.

Which makes the Republican moderates understandably nervous. Life is unfair, and it's their seats, more than the more secure ones of their hard-right colleagues, that are being added to the Democrats' list of districts to contest in next year's elections. And who knows? Maybe courage, or judgment, is contagious. Having stood up to the president on Davis-Bacon and lived to tell the tale, they might just tell their colleagues who want to cut back on medical assistance to the poor to take a hike. Over in the Senate, they might even reject a Supreme Court nominee who could imperil a woman's right to reproductive choice. Because one thing is certain: Whatever ails the Republican Party, it's not that it's insufficiently right-wing.

And Rick's scapegoating narrative has been an undercurrent of the entire post-invasion period. Iraqis have been infantilized, first as a group that needed the grownups to come in and clean up their mess for them, and then as a group that somehow can't shoulder the peacekeeping chores that the grownups so reasonably expect of them. Since the narrative is built on the twin pilllars of racism and American exceptionalism, it should play pretty well.

As Stevie Wonder said, "Iraq, Iran, Eurasia... y'know I speak very, very, um fluent Spanish." Could sum up Bush. Who knew he was so prescient.

I've thought for a while that the GOP would use the "ungrateful Iraqis" theme as one pillar when it became time to pull out. I hadn't thought about the Dems blamingf Chalabi with that as a sort of subtext, but it isn't bad.

The voters in Colorado voted to suspend their taxpayer Bill of Rights and giove back, that's right, give back $3 billion in future tax cuts to help bail out state gov't. Arnold's spending cap measure is immensely unpopular in California. If the GOP loses tax cuts, and they are manifestly so bad on national security, what is left for them? Party of no ideas indeed.

We can't hang the war around the neck of Dick Cheney and Crazy Texas Oilmen? At the very least, we need a scapegoat that will bring us lasting domestic political benefit. Blame the Iraqis, even Chalabi or a "neoconservative cabal" and we still have nothing on the Rs. And it's just not fair for them to fuck up this badly and not suffer lasting political consequences, a la Dems and Vietnam.

And yes, my talk radio guzzling Dad is clearly setting himself up to blame the Iraqis. That is not to our advantage (nor is it particularly true) and we should not play along in any form. Even by blaming Chalabi, tempting as that may be.

Hm, I think I'll elaborate just a bit.

Blaming Iraqis of course lets Republicans right off the hook. That might have been a necessary escape valve once, but with Katrina acting as evidence of Grand Scale Incompetence, and with Libby and DeLay assisting with the corrupt-and-sinister angle, I don't think our situation is desperate enough that we should run for the easy out that pays very low dividends. If the electorate's cognitive dissonance were still extremely strong, then yes, we'd have to provide them with an easy out, and blame-the-Arabs would certainly work; Limbaugh is already trying it out, I assume. But our position is strong enough now, and the Rs weak enough, that we don't need to settle for that; we should press our advantage and press it hard, and convince the electorate that the Rs are the delusional, self-absorbed, self-righteous incompetents that they really are. It'll take work on the part of the Ds, but it's doable, and unlike blaming the Arabs it would pay generational political dividends. And it's true.

We can't let this slide. They've had united government. 2003-2005 IS the Republican Party. Time to brand them with their own achievements.

Perhaps these people are encouraged in their "magical thinking" by the (to me) imponderable past levels of support for the Bush Administration. What did the Bushies ever REALLY do to earn this unusually strong support? It always had a magical quality to it. Why descend into the real world at this late desperate date?

Mark C --

Boy, you REALLY serve up the brutal realism without a chaser, but you're right. And unfair though it is, it's no skin off the Iraqis' collective nose - I doubt they'll much care what we think of them, so long as they see the back of us and they can get on with their own 5000 years of recorded history.

texas dem --

The GOPers certainly will be on the hook for all their other failures, as they damn well should be. But military setbacks - whatever the cause - are a special case, because it touches on tribal impulses that were old when Iraq was young.

This relates to the point James implicitly made. What DID Bush do to win the support he had for a time? Well, he didn't do jack diddly; he just had the good luck to be tribal chieftain when some people from another tribe blindsided us.

-- Rick

there's no question the kool-aid drinkers don't get it... from Brooks to Rush "R's have taxes and small government, Dems have nothing". That's the mantra. It is so out of touch with where the country is.

I advocate linking Chalabi to the SOTU pic of him in the gallery near Laura. Chalabi is a R creature. They chose him for Shah. He was a traitor, and sold out to iran. Blame him and Rumsfeld.

Interestingly the non-partisans like charlie Cook write about how smart R's a re cathing on. But don't expect to hear it from the aplogists. They're paid to lie and obfuscate, not to think.

You raise an interesting point, Dem: how can the smarter elements in the GOP bring about change to reverse this downward course, when the official party narrative (from Fox, Murdoch, and columnists as far down the food chain as Brooks) is that there's no problem, and the best strategy is "half a league onward"

Wouldn't it be gloriously ironic if the right-wing sound machine, which has helped this bunch get away with so much, in the end proved part of its undoing?

I thought that the reference to "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" was a tipoff I was being a bit flip about the Dems blaming the Iraqis. I do think the GOP will, and have heard it already. But Chalabi is fair game, because it fits into the "credulous, incompetent Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" and hear-no-evil, see-no-evil Congress that got us into a war of choice for bad reasons and then screwed it up theme.

The R's are out of touch on taxes and gov't services. The reason that they keep saying the Dems have no ideas is projection--they fear at their core that THEY are out of ideas. Yes, 2003-2006 is Republicanism at its best, and it is a sorry prospect.

demtom, we've always been at war with Eurasia... to give an idea of where we're at, in the "insiders poll" at National Journal, R's think the major issue in 2006 is Iraq (Bush is 4th), D's have a tie between Bush's performance and Iraq. But note this comment from an anonymous insider R:

"I love these guys, but they are in total meltdown. It's tough to know why, but they are so insular that they eschew the best and most experienced and objective out-of-the-weeds counsel from a lot of really smart people who could provide some clear and valuable counsel. Crisis is no time to 'bunker down.' This crowd seems to believe that the only good counsel is inside the White House complex. They have and will continue to suffer from that."

Republicans really believe that Democrat ideas will drive people to the President?

Democratic ideas, you mean.

I do mean that. Corrected.

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