Friday, April 20, 2007

All-Thumbs White House

As soon as Democrats took over Congress, it became clear that, as political as this Administration has been, Bush, Cheney and Rove have no aptitude for the process.

For six years, with a rubber-stamp Republican Congress, there was no need for the give-and-take, negotiating, compromises and tradeoffs normally involved in governing. Now, every day brings new evidence that these people just don’t know how to do it.

Start with the twisting in the wind of Alberto Gonzales. As the Attorney General tightens his own noose in today’s Senate hearings, Bush says he is “pleased” with the performance. When the AG finally goes, the President will be as politically damaged as he was by his lies to the media before Rumsfeld’s abrupt departure, which he withheld until after the November elections.

The funding-of-the-war fight is another disaster in the making. If Lyndon Johnson had been faced with a Congressional revolt over Vietnam, he would have found ways of finessing it with language that took the opposition’s concerns into account. Instead, clueless Bush just digs in and tries to score rhetorical points.

Referring to Karl Rove as a “political genius” is a gruesome joke. He is good (if that’s the word) only at fighting dirty, which may win elections but is disastrous for governing, as the firing of the U.S. Attorneys may eventually prove. The lost e-mails, conflicting stories and general confusion are the political equivalent of the stateroom scene in a Marx Brothers movie.

Just yesterday, Rove in Ohio was asked whose idea it was to start a preemptive war in Iraq, and he answered, “I think it was bin Laden’s,” a snappy answer for whistle-stop campaigning in the sticks but not for a college audience including protesters.

When voters pick a President next year, they may want to keep in mind that politics is the art of the possible, and it can’t be successfully practiced by people who only know how to vilify opponents not cooperate with them.

Nobody wants a re-run of the cautionary 1972 movie, “The Candidate,” which ends with Robert Redford, after a tumultuous winning campaign, asking “What do we do now?”

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