Top Republican Tells Post: Laura Has Taken Away Bush's Swagger
The vultures, aye, the vultures....
A Washington Post Page One story in Saturday's edition tells us that Bush's trip to Northern Command this weekend is designed to help Bush look like he is in command once again while trying to regain his swagger. But we also get these money paragraphs, which tell you everything:
(A) growing number of Republicans inside and out of the White House have noticed an administration less sure-footed and slower to react to the political environment surrounding them.
A top Republican close to the White House since the earliest days said the absence of a "reelection target" and pressure from first lady Laura Bush and others to soften his second-term tone conspired to temper Bush's swagger well before Katrina hit. "A reelection campaign was always the driving principle to force them to get things together," said the GOP operative, who would speak candidly about Bush only if his name was not used. He said the "brilliance of this team" was always overstated. "Part of the reason they looked so good is Democrats were so discombobulated." Since the election, this official said, White House aides reported that Laura Bush was among those counseling Bush to change his cowboy image during the final four years.
William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said the psychological turnabout started with the failed Social Security campaign, billed as the number one domestic priority six months ago. "The negative effect of the Social Security [campaign] is underestimated," Kristol said. "Once you make that kind of mistake, people tend to be less deferential to your decisions." This coincided with a growing number of Republicans losing faith in Bush's war plan, as Republicans such as Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) openly questioned the president's strategy.
In a series of private conversations over the past few months, aides began second-guessing how they handled the Social Security debate, managed the public perception of the Iraq war and, most recently, the response to Katrina. The federal CIA leak investigation, which has forced Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove and others to testify before a grand jury, seemed to distract officials and left a general feeling of unease, two aides said. Aides were calling reporters to find out what was happening with Rove and the investigation. "Nobody knows what's going to happen with the probe," one senior aide said.
Hell, the press is making Bush out to be a cartoon character who needs to go to a military base to regain his image, while top Republicans are openly blaming Laura Bush for neutering her husband. To top it off, and as we have been saying for awhile now, this same top Republican says that team around Bush was never really that good to begin with; they only appeared good because the Democrats were so worthless.
Bigfooter Kristol now says what we knew months ago: if you could stop Bush on Social Security, and were able to mix that with growing unease over Iraq, then his first term signature event and his second term priority would both drag him down. Add to that the uncertainty over Plame, and what you get is the typical second term banana peel.
And now it's happened. It must be fun around the house now, with a top Republican saying openly that Laura's got Bush's balls in her pocket. If Skippy wasn't drinking before, he is now.