Have been reading a lot of articles like this in the last weeks. Sad news is that the dissent which helped produce / bring light to the failures and shortcomings of the Bush Administration may not have done enough to refashion substantive changes in the democractic party – based at least on their stated positions.
by Gary Younge, g.younge@guardian.co.uk
by The Guardian/UK
Published on Monday, August 20, 2007
With the departure of Karl Rove, the stench of failure hangs over
the president – and his party wants to ignore the smell
George Bush likes his sleep. While campaigning for the presidency
in 2000 his prize possession was a feather pillow. On the night that
Saddam Hussein was executed he went to bed at 9pm with strict orders
not to be woken. When the then CIA director, George Tenet, tried to
alert him to news of the first night’s bombing of Iraq he was sent
away. “He is the type of person who sleeps at 9.30pm after watching
the domestic news,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah told Okaz,
a Saudi newspaper.
But one can’t help wondering if Karl Rove’s resignation might not
disturb his slumber for his remaining months in the White House. Rove,
Bush’s consigliere for the past 30 years, left last week in much
the same manner as he had stayed: misleading the public. He told the
nation that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Maybe he
should have checked with his family first.
His only son leaves for college in just a few days.
Rove is leaving because there is nothing more for him to do; Bush
is letting him go because he no longer has any use for him. His
departure effectively marks the end of the Bush presidency – from
hereon in Bush’s tenure is about keeping the troops in Iraq and as
many of his administration out of handcuffs as possible. Last week
Fox News asked the neocon commentator Charles Krauthammer how much
time Bush had to promote his agenda. “None,” said Krauthammer. “It’s
over. There is no agenda.”
But while the left loves to revel in Bush’s woes, it invariably revels
in the wrong woes. Bush’s problem is not that he has failed on our
terms – humanism, equality, peace and democracy – but that he has
failed on his own.
True, his low approval ratings reveal a president approaching
Nixonian lows.
But then, unlike Nixon, Bush has never craved popularity. He pushed
through most of his most pernicious legislation after having lost the
popular vote in 2000. This is a man who understood 51% of the vote
in 2004 as an overwhelming mandate. “I’ll reach out to everyone who
shares our goals,” Bush said.
“I earned capital in the campaign, political capital. And now I intend
to spend it. It is my style.”
True, too, that the Iraq war is going badly. But then it has never
been going well, and that has never seemed to bother him either. He has
described himself as “the decider”, but never “the contemplator”. This
too is his style.
In any case the Bush agenda was always more far-reaching than
anything that can be accounted for by mere polls, war, or the loss
of human life. The ultimate aim of his presidency was to realign
American politics to cement a conservative electoral majority for
a generation. The cornerstone of his domestic agenda was to build
on the Republicans’ traditional base of evangelists, southerners,
white men and the wealthy, by winning over Catholics, married white
women and a sizable minority of Latinos with a mixture of policies
and pronouncements on immigration, homophobia, abortion and social
Bush did not create the partisan split in America; he inherited it,
just as Al Gore would have if he had won the supreme court case in
2000. But while the split was broad (the difference was less than 5%
in 13 states from New Mexico to New Hampshire), it was Bush who made
it deep and rancorous.
For unlike Thatcher or Reagan he sought to achieve his ends not
by exploiting division in order to forge a new, more rightwing
consensus but rather to exploit new divisions in order to crush a
growing consensus. The majority of the country was, for example,
pro-choice and in favour of granting equal rights to gay couples in
almost all areas. So the Bush administration chose to leverage gay
marriage and late-term abortion – two issues that could act as a wedge
– to rally his base. Crude in execution and majoritarian in impulse,
it sought not to win over new converts but simply to mobilise dormant
constituencies. His legacy will be rightwing policies – but not a
more rightwing political culture.
That his agenda should have failed so completely should come as
no surprise.
The project was always, at root, a faith-based initiative. Following
the Republican congressional victory in 2002 Rove was asked to comment
on the fact that the nation seemed evenly divided between Republicans
and Democrats.
“Something else is going on out there,” he said. “Something else more
fundamental … But we will only know it retrospectively. In two years,
or four years or six years, [we may] look back and say the dam began
to break in 2002.”
With no discernible material basis on which to build, this new
majority at home and new world order abroad had to be fashioned from
whole cloth. A Bush aide once ridiculed a New York Times reporter
for belonging to “the reality-based community”, which he defined as
people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study
of discernible reality”. “That’s not the way the world really works
any more,” he said. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create
our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously,
as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you
can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s
actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
So here we are studying. The coalition crumbled. In 2006 Catholics
backed the Democrats; white women broke even. According to a Wall
Street Journal poll, Americans would prefer the next president to be
a Democrat by 52% to 31%.
Meanwhile, the presumptive standard bearer for this new majority is
treated like a pariah. As the Republican hopeful Mitt Romney pressed
flesh in a restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, a few weeks ago,
Muriel Allard said: “We need someone like him. They don’t care about us
over there.” At a town hall meeting a couple of hours away in Keene,
another Republican contender, John McCain, was asked last month if it
wasn’t time to put a “warrior in chief” in the White House rather than
these “draft dodgers”. Bush’s name never came up. “Friends who were
obnoxious in their praise for him just don’t mention him any more,”
says Rick Holmes from Derry. “He’s like the embarrassing uncle you
just don’t want to talk about.”
A sense of doom among Republicans is palpable. A growing number
of Republican congressmen – most recently the former house speaker
Dennis Hastert – have announced they are to retire, or are considering
it. “Democrats will win the White House [and] hold their majority in
the house and in the Senate in 2008,” the retiring congressman Ray
Lahood told the New York Times.
There is even talk that Republicans might not invite Bush to their
“If they’re smart, no,” the Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio told
Newsweek. “Especially if things don’t change in Iraq, we’ll have the
problem the Democrats had in 1968 with Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam. The
question becomes: where do we hide the president?”
Bush could run, but he can’t now hide. Rove showed Bush how to win
elections, but he couldn’t show him how to govern. For the next year
and a half he may need more than a feather pillow to get him to sleep.