Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The end of the Rove?

By J. Kingston Pierce

Salon political reporter Tim Grieve offers some interesting speculation about the timing of yesterday’s news that Republican’t hit man Karl Rove--the onetime kingmaker who promoted an obscure, weak Texas governor into the office of the president of the United States--will resign at the end of this month as White House deputy chief of staff. Grieve suggests that the sudden announcement of Rove’s departure was made in order to deny GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney “the post-Iowa day in the sun that he would be enjoying today if only Rove hadn’t knocked him out of the news cycle.” (Supposedly leading GOP candidates Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and too-coy Fred Thompson didn’t even campaign in this poll, leaving Romney to basically buy himself a symbolic win.)

“Maybe we’ve been doing this too long,” Grieve says, before asking the obvious question: “[W]ould Rove--or any Republican, for that matter--be happy if the subject of the day weren’t what happened this weekend in Iowa?” His answer is yes, based on an editorial column in the New York Sun, written by Ryan Sager, author of The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party. In that piece, Sager makes clear that he thinks this last weekend’s political hoedown in Ames, Iowa, can only hurt the GOP’s already slim chances of holding onto the White House past January 20, 2009:

The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he’s little more than Jesus Christ’s running mate. The pandering from the stage told the story. Mr. Romney promised not a chicken in every pot, but “a button on every computer” for parents to block obscene material. Anti-immigrant ranter Tom Tancredo nearly brought the house down decrying the fact that Americans sometimes have to “Press 1” for English. [Former Arkansas Governor Mike] Huckabee earned his second-place finish in part by making the specious claim that farm subsidies safeguard America’s food independence. (You think it’s bad depending on foreign oil, Mr. Huckabee asked? “Wait until our country messes up and has to depend on foreign food.”) Senator [Sam] Brownback of Kansas, the third-place finisher, declared as he often does in his stump speech: “All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus.”

This all may fly in Ames. But it won’t in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the interior West, all of which will be battlegrounds in this presidential election and for many elections to come. Republicans need to broaden their appeal in this tough environment, and the first step is to turn their sights away from Ames and toward the rest of the nation. Otherwise, come November 2008, it’s the voters who won’t show up.

I don’t know. As devious, dishonest, and divisive as Rove has
proved himself to be over the last six years, it’s hard to imagine that he could be trying to torpedo the former Massachusetts governor’s Oval Office aspirations. Especially since, as has been reported, “first brother” and ex-Florida Guv Jeb Bush has “privately [been] talking up the candidacy of Mitt Romney and steering some of his closest advisers to the campaign.” Would Rove, suspecting that the robotic Romney would make a pale opponent against, say, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, deliberately try to deep-six the Republican’t’s chances by stealing the limelight from him? And if so, would he have asked his boss for permission to do so? We already know that George W. Bush doesn’t seek advice from his former prez father; would he also contrive to undermine his supposedly smarter brother’s favorite presidential candidate? If so, that’s going to make future Bush family get-togethers rather awkward …

On the other hand, if Rove really doesn’t like Romney for the 2008 race, it might explain one thing: why, after plenty of talk about George W. appointing the Massachusetts governor as a “hurricane-relief czar” in the wake of the Bush administration’s incredible incompetence around Katrina’s clobbering of New Orleans, the White House quietly dropped the idea of an outside point man, and instead put Rove in charge of post-hurricane reconstruction. If this was the doing of “Bush’s Brain,” as Rove has become known, it might well have been because he didn’t want Romney to gain national stature that other potential GOP presidential aspirants wouldn’t have going into the ’08 contest.

Even if Rove had his own agenda in announcing his departure yesterday, though, it may not matter in the long run. Romney is the ideal Republican’t candidate: willing--nay, anxious--to flip-flop and distance himself from his past statements, whenever necessary; happy to kowtow to the religious-right extremists who hold the reins of today’s GOP; attentive to the shallow trappings of Republican’t candidacy (a smiling family, a National Rifle Association membership card); and appealing in a blandly handsome way (thanks, in part, to expensive applications of makeup.) None of his rivals for his party’s presidential nomination next year can beat Romney when it comes to being an empty plastic vessel in need of filling with voter expectations. So, as Giuliani fades over concerns that he’s not rabid enough about preventing same-sex marriages and abortions; as the once-straight-talking (more or less) John McCain hemorrhages backers upset with his assiduous sucking-up to the warmongering Bush; and as not-yet-candidate Thompson (that would be Fred, rather than the newly liberated Tommy) fails to prove himself as a not-so-bad-as-the-other-guys alternative, Romney is likely to benefit. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he winds up as the Republican’t nominee in 2008.

His running mate? Jeb Bush. Why else do you think the ex-Florida governor was so pleased to send his Tallahassee troops in to help Mormon Mitt?

READ MORE:Sudden Timing of Karl Rove’s Departure Surprises and Intrigues Most,” by Joe Gandleman (The Moderate Voice); “Rove Leaves More Second-Term Blues for White House,” by John Whitesides (AP); “The Collapse of Karl Rove,” by Lou Dubose (Salon); “We’ll Go No More a-Rove-ing,” by Sidney Blumenthal (Salon); “Please, Not Another M.B.A. President,” by Matthew Cooper (Condé Nast Portfolio); “The Architect and the War,” by Michael Isikoff (Newsweek); “The Rove Legacy,” by Adam Nagourney (The New York Times); “The Man Who Sold the War,” by Joan Walsh (Salon).

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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