August 13, 2007

Bush's Brain Quits: I'm most unimpressed with the legacy of Karl Rove. His brilliant decision in 2000 to have Bush campaign in New Jersey and California, and not campaign on weekends, at the tail end of that election was meant to show that his boy was confident and coasting, and it was based on polling that showed Bush with a double-digit lead. Bush lost, and would have been a forgotten footnote were it not for the machinations of the Supreme Court. In the wake of 9/11 and a quick "victory" in Iraq, it shouldn't have been difficult to reelect his client, especially with a liberal Massachusetts Democrat as his opponent, but Bush almost lost that race as well. Considering that since 1952, electing Republicans as President has been the default choice of the electorate, it's hard to be impressed with his legacy.

Moreover, the Republican Party under his watch is now the weakest it has been since Watergate. The party is hemorhaging seats in Congress and at the state level, largely because of Rove's deliberate tactic of playing to the base, which has become increasingly extreme (and irrelevant). A major, potentially enormous political realignment has begun that will favor Democrats for perhaps a generation, much of it the result of the shortsighted, dunderheaded tactics of the man the President nicknamed "Turdblossom." As long as Americans study politics, they will note the hubris shown by the man who predicted a Republican victory in the 2006 election with the line "I'm looking at 68 polls a week for candidates for the US House and US Senate, and Governor and you may be looking at 4-5 public polls a week that talk attitudes nationally...You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to THE math." Right now, "THE math" shows Republican minorities in both houses of Congress, and no Republican presidential candidate beating Hillary Clinton.

And of course, his role in outing Valerie Plame made his very existence within the Bush White House toxic. The Plame Affair generated enormous heat within the blogosphere, with lefty bloggers suddenly appreciating the sanctity of preserving CIA secrecy, and righties obsessed with irrelevant tangents about Amb. Wilson's bona fides. But to the public, the real scandal was the cold-blooded manner with which the Bush Administration attempted to deal with a critic, potentially putting a covert agent's life (as well as the lives of the assets she dealt with) at risk. Rove's involvement in the outing of Ms. Wilson effectively proved that the action had met with the approval of the President, and further plunged his client's approval ratings into the Nixonian toilet.

Perhaps Josh Marshall has it right when he speculates, "[W]ith the recent news of cutbacks on funding of human intelligence in the intel budget, there's the possibility that there were no more CIA agents whose cover could be blown and he decided to move on to greener pastures."

UPDATE: Kevin Drum agrees, and passes along a devastating anecdote about the Bush-Rove team at work.

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