Bush Wants A Middle Ground?
Today’s award for dubious political analysis comes from Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times, who manages in 21 paragraphs to do several flips, and never makes a convincing case that Alberto Gonzales’ departure helps Bush make a fresh start. First, she starts with the position that the departure of Rove and now Gonzales can reinvigorate Bush for his remaining battles with Congress on Iraq and domestic spying, by removing their baggage from the narrative.
For Mr. Bush, the departures are a good-news/bad-news situation. On the one hand, he can go into the next battle with Congress over the Iraq war — as well as another looming fight over legislation authorizing his domestic wiretapping program — free of the baggage both men carried. If the resignations remove some of the partisan tension between the White House and Capitol Hill, and get Mr. Rove and Mr. Gonzales off the front pages, they could help get Mr. Bush off the defensive as he struggles to salvage something of his second term.
Stolberg seems to think that Democrats were using Rove and Gonzales as battering rams in the Iraq debate; I wonder what debate she’s been watching. And if Gonzales was a liability to Bush on his domestic spying program, then why did so many Democrats hand Gonzales so much power on the FISA cave in?
Then Stolberg says that maybe Bush won’t benefit after all, because he stuck by Gonzales for so long, demonstrating a stubbornness that was evident yesterday when Bush blamed Congress for his own poor judgment in appointing the slug in the first place. Finally, she ends with the argument that the new team around Bush will help him work with Congress more. As evidence of this, she notes the replacement of Dan Bartlett with former RNC hatchet man Ed Gillespie, as if Gillespie can be counted on to build rather than burn down bridges to Congress.
Stolberg writes this piece as if Gillespie’s past didn’t exist, as if she was swilling whatever Kool-Aid the White House wanted to paint about a mean Congress rebuffing the advances of a newly-conciliatory White House. And she ends her “analysis” with the notion that Gillespie and Josh Bolten, who has already been tagged for contempt of Congress, will somehow lead Bush to a “middle ground” in his dealings with Congress.
Sure. Let’s see whom he nominates for Attorney General and possibly Homeland Security first, OK Ms. Stolberg? Any mention of hacks like Michael Chertoff, Ted Olson, and Laurence Silberman as possible replacements at Justice, and Clay Johnson at Homeland Security are not the signs of a man who wants any middle ground with Congress. Yet the Beltway reporters all seem afflicted with Broderism, in that they continue to project their desire for bipartisan bonhomie onto a man who has never governed that way.