Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, November 13th, 2006.


Elephant Autopsy

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Bush Administration, Karl Rove, Republican Party

Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press reports that Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida will replace Ken Mehlman as chair of the Republican National Committee.

Martinez started slowly in the Senate where he was embarrassed by a one-page unsigned memo that originated in his office. Written by a Martinez aide and disavowed by Senate Republicans, the memo laid out the political benefits to getting involved in the fate of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman whose end-of-life battle became a rallying cry for conservatives.

“This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue,” said the memo. Its author resigned.

A quick cruise around the rightie blogs tells me “the base” is way underwhelmed. They’re pissed because Martinez, who immigrated from Cuba in 1962, is a moderate on immigration. Allahpundit:

Hot Air commenters agree: it’s an awful pick, transparently aimed at appealing to pro-amnesty Hispanic voters. If the GOP goes ahead and puts Boehner and Blunt back in place in the minority leadership, you’re looking at a very dire electoral situation in 2008.

John Aravosis of AMERICAblog:

It’s probably no surprise that the GOP chose someone anti-gay after rumors had swirled for years about the exact sexual orientation of outgoing RNC chair Ken Mehlman (Mehlman publicly avoided the question for years).

But even more interesting is that a top staffer on Martinez’s Senate campaign, Kirk Fordham, was also the former chief of staff to child sex predator ex-congressman Mark Foley. Foley represented Florida in the House. Martinez represents Florida in the Senate.

I’m just saying…

I’m saying the Republicans are flapping around like a headless chicken. And who is in charge these days, anyway? President Bush is still, I assume, the official head of the party, but he’s a head that few seem to be following at the moment. Even the VRWC media machine is abandoning him. The Bush cult of personality appears to be evaporating rapidly, which is a good thing. But the Republicans have invested everything in Bush for the past six years, and now their investment is deflating like a failed soufflé. What are they going to do?

More post-election commentary — Chuck Todd writes,

When a political party gets shellacked, the intra-party feud becomes dominated by the base, not the moderates. The base will swear, in this case, that the party needed more true-blue conservatives running, or that it should have been more conservative in its congressional governance. And then these losses would have been avoided.

There are some shreds of truth in that thinking, but the GOP will only isolate itself even more if it takes a turn to the right. Republicans will not regain the majority if they continue to grow away from the inner-suburban voter. Missouri and Virginia, for instance, sent that message loud and clear.

My survey of the Right Blogosphere tells me righties want to erase the past couple of years. That not being an option, they still want hard-Right positions from the GOP. I’m sure the Christian Right is as militant as ever. Republicans must choose between appeasing its whackjob base and getting elected outside the Deep South. Will they (date I say it?) choose to move left to win back independent voters? Will they have to mirror the Clinton strategy of taking the base for granted (who else are they going to vote for?) and moving right?

Todd also provides evidence that President Bush’s last-minute trips to Missouri and Montana helped push those Senate seats into Democrats’ laps. In spite of what we were being told about a last-minute Republican “surge,” the Democrats actually picked up most of the last-minute votes in those states, according to Todd.

It’s hard not to look at the White House and wonder if it was flying blind. For 18 months, there was evidence that this was going to be a tough midterm thanks to basic history (six-year itch, after all) and the war in Iraq. So why didn’t Karl Rove attempt to do what he did in ’02 and ’04 and dictate the terms of the debate? It was clear this was going to be a national election, yet the White House stuck to its “stay the course” guns for way too long. Northeastern Republicans were desperate for Bush to pivot on Iraq and he just wouldn’t do it. When he finally did, it was too late.

The political arm of the Bush White House doesn’t usually miss this badly, but it appears this election was misjudged from the beginning. Maybe they believed all the “genius” books that were being written about them.

Todd predicts that “cooler heads will prevail,” and that Republicans will be thinking “moderate” (or a facsimile thereof) in 2008, even though this will alienate the base. But Karl Rove may still try to run Republican politics his way.

Dan Froomkin:

Rove’s divide-and-conquer political strategy, his insistence that Republican candidates embrace the war in Iraq as a campaign issue, his supremely self-assured predictions of victory — all were proven deeply, even delusionally wrong last week.

His prediction that Republicans would retain both houses of Congress, in particular, is hardly explicable by “bad math” and Mark Foley.

Either Rove lied or he’s clueless. Or both. But will that tarnish Rove’s reputation in Washington? Maybe not.

Rove, at least for the moment, remains too powerful to be ignored. Plus, he knows how to play the press like a fiddle. Right now, he’s on a rare, on-the-record charm offensive — and so far, it seems to be going pretty well.

Froomkin quotes several other analysts who say — as I wrote yesterday — that Rove is making excuses for his campaign decisions. For example, Peter Baker:

The Architect, as President Bush once called him, has a theory for why the building fell down. “Get me the one-pager!” he cried out to an aide, who promptly delivered a single sheet of paper that had been updated almost hourly since the midterm elections with a series of statistics explaining that the ‘thumping’ Bush took was not such a thumping after all.

The theory is this: The building’s infrastructure was actually quite sound. It was bad luck and seasonal shifts in the winds that blew out the walls — complacent candidates, an ill-timed Mark Foley page scandal and the predictable cycles of history. But the foundation is fine: “The Republican philosophy is alive and well and likely to reemerge in the majority in 2008.”

The rest of Washington might think Tuesday’s elections were a repudiation of Rove’s brand of politics, but Rove does not. . . .

Rove’s brand of politics aims to sharpen differences with the opposition, energize the conservative base and micro-target voters to pick off selected parts of the other side’s constituency. As he has in past elections, Rove designed a strategy to paint Democrats as weak on national security and terrorism, the “party of cut and run.”

In an expansive interview last week, Rove said that strategy was working until the House page sex scandal involving ex-representative Foley (R-Fla.) put the Republican campaign “back on its heels,” as he put it. “We were on a roll, and it stopped it,’ he said. ‘It revived all the stuff about Abramoff and added to it.”

This may be just bravado, but I’m betting it isn’t. As I wrote yesterday, Rove gained his reputation as a political genius by picking off Democratic incumbents in Southern states. Right now he’s in a place he’s never been before — standing beside an incumbent whose incompetence has been laid bare for the whole world to see. Is Rove smart enough to realize he needs to re-think his strategy? He doesn’t appear to be.

Mike Allen:

… here is Rove’s extraordinary explanation to Allen of his pre-election predictions:

[H]e does not believe his data let him down. “My job is not to be a prognosticator,” he said. “My job is not to go out there and wring my hands and say, ‘We’re going to lose.’ I’m looking at the data and seeing if I can figure out, Where can we be? I told the president, ‘I don’t know where this is going to end up. But I see our way clear to Republican control.'”

Kenneth Walsh writes for U.S. News and World Report:

[Rove] is telling GOP operatives and organizers that things weren’t as bad as they seemed and that the news media have been exaggerating the extent of GOP losses.

“There was a rush to say there was a huge wave against the Republican Party,” says a Republican strategist who is close to Rove. “That was premature.”

For example, Rove says many races went down to the wire–there were 35 House contests in which the winner got 51 percent of the vote or less–suggesting that the country is still closely divided between Republicans and Democrats. In the 18 races decided by 8,000 or fewer votes, the GOP won 12 and lost six, Rove says. Rove argues that there was a bad “environment” for the GOP, one marked by stories of scandal and corruption, intensified by the unpopularity of the Iraq war and President Bush.

Rove estimates that 10 House seats were lost to the GOP specifically because of one-time scandals and that those losses weren’t due to any flawed strategy on his part. Rove also says the results were not outside the norm in which a president’s party generally suffers losses in congressional elections in his sixth year. In addition, Rove tells glum Republicans that the party “saved” eight to 14 GOP candidates because of its vaunted 72-hour plan to get out the GOP vote.

However, Walsh says, there is much grumbling within the GOP. Bush critics complain Rove just continues to do what worked for him in the past and is too inflexible to change his tactics to match changing reality.

John Dickerson wrote last week that beltway Republicans were not blaming Karl Rove on last week’s loss. As reality sinks in many of them are likely to re-think their position. But George W. Bush is still head of the party, and Karl Rove is still his political strategist. Unless, somehow, another leader emerges before 2008, for the next couple of years its going to be every elephant for itself.

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Who’s Your Daddy?

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Bush Administration, Democratic Party, Republican Party

Via Steve M., Michael Goodwin writes in the New York Daily News,

Republicans, with their macho men and muscular policy prescriptions, are in decline because they are out of answers. Dems are getting better at seizing their opportunities, and doing it with women playing a leading role.

Put another way, Mommy is taking over because Daddy screwed up.

Oh, please. Macho men as in

or maybe

or

?

And let us not forget

… as opposed to Democratic girlie-men like

or

or

?

Give me a break.

Steve M. writes,

Goodwin seems to be using “Mommy Party” as a compliment, which may make him the first member of the political class ever to do so, and maybe that’s good — but I worry, because if voters think the Mommies have taken over, soon this will be declared a huge problem, a threat to our national greatness, and pundits (seemingly from across the spectrum because they’ll include quite a few who claim to be liberals) will be scanning the horizon looking for signs that the demasculinized national nightmare is not permanent and “men are back.” (You remember that phrase from the fireman-fetishizing immediate aftermath of 9/11.) The last thing we need right now is a punditocracy-wide search for macho men to make everything all better — that’s basically how we got into this mess.

There’s a nice profile of Senator-elect Jon Tester in today’s New York Times, btw. It begins,

When he joins the United States Senate in January, big Jon Tester — who is just under 300 pounds in his boots — will most likely be the only person in the world’s most exclusive club who knows how to butcher a cow or grease a combine.

The Republicans have Ahhhnold, but he represents the Hollywood version of manliness. Our guys are the real deal. They don’t have to pose with firemen or borrow somebody’s tool belt to look manly.

I don’t like the “Daddy Party,” “Mommy Party” stuff anyway, and not just because it paints Dems as wusses. If politicians are like parents, then citizens must be the children. Conservatives might think that way, but American liberalism is based on the understanding that citizens are grown-ups who can govern themselves, and they do so through representative government.

Someday I should write a post arguing that male righties have a fetish about manliness because they are so unsure of their own. I sincerely believe that’s true. Until then, do us all a favor and slap down the “mommy party, daddy party” nonsense whenever you run into it, OK?

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Directions

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Congress, Democratic Party, Iraq War, Republican Party

The headline news this morning is that Nancy Pelosi has endorsed John Murtha to become House Majority Leader. John Bresnahan writes for Roll Call:

Pelosi, in a letter distributed Sunday to newly elected House Democrats, wrote that Murtha’s outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq helped change the electoral campaign for the House this fall. Murtha began calling for a U.S. pullout from Iraq a year ago, and his open opposition to the war made him a focus of intense criticism from Republicans and the White House.

Pelosi, though, credited Murtha, one of her closest allies in the House, with changing the national debate on the issue and helping provide Democratic challengers and incumbents with a winning argument for the mid-term elections.

“With respect to Iraq in particular, I salute your courageous leadership that changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election,” Pelosi wrote in a personal letter to Murtha. “Your leadership gave so many Americans, including respected military leaders, the encouragement to voice their own disapproval at a failed policy that weakens our military and makes stability in that region even more difficult to achieve. The enthusiastic response of Americans all across this nation gave an enormous lift to our Democratic efforts, and your unsurpassed personal solicitations produced millions of dollars which were new to the effort. Those resources made a huge difference and particularly for the candidates on whose behalf you campaigned.”

Pelosi added: “Your strong voice for national security, the war on terror and Iraq provides genuine leadership for our party, and I count on you to continue to lead on these vital issues. For this and for all you have done for Democrats in the past and especially this last year, I am pleased to support your candidacy for Majority Leader for the 110th Congress.”

The current Democratic leader in the House is Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who has a strong base of support. Pelosi’s endorsement may not give the position to Murtha.

Predictably, some rightie bloggers seized on this news as an omen of the inevitable (they think) Democratic Party crackup. The Blue Crab, for example, writes that Dems are being disloyal to Hoyer; Pelosi “slid the shiv right into Hoyer’s back,” which shows what kind of people Democrats are. Commenter Crosspatch says,

Personally, I believe putting Jack Murtha as majority leader pretty much dooms the Dems in 08. Murtha is not at all popular with moderates and the Dems are going to need all the moderates they are going to get. So I would say overall, this is good news for the Republicans. Democrats shooting themselves in the foot is always a good thing.

The problem with Crosspatch’s analysis is that he seems to have hauled it out of his ass. If by “moderate” he means “almost one of us,” as I suspect he does, he should read Matt Yglesias’s analysis. Murtha tends to be to the right of Hoyer on most issues, Matt says. Ed Kilgore complains that Murtha has “actually been a bit to the right of Jimmy Dean Sausage on a host of issues over the years.”

On the other hand, according to a blogger at One America:

Murtha supports stem-cell research and is staunchly pro-labor, opposing both NAFTA and CAFTA. I realize Mr. Hoyer is a good and decent man who has paid his dues and is probably friendly and acceptable to corporate America. But as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid move the Congress forward in the post-DeLay/post-Abramoff era and endeavor to “drain the swamp” and implement true reforms, I would like the Democratic Party to choose a Majority Leader who appears “more pure” and “less corporate.” Jack Murtha exudes down-to-earth true-blue red-blooded American values and that’s who I want in a leadership position right now.

If you’ve got the stomach to visit Wizbang (I suggest waiting for at least an hour after breakfast), you can find a link roundup of rightie reaction. The blogger writes,

… we can expect the policy of cut and run very soon as the House cuts off funding for the war.

As the Democrats reveal their true colors, will the American voters begin to experience buyer’s remorse? I say bring on Murtha. If he, Nancy, and the other left wing loons get their way, they will have a hard time retaining control of the House in 2008.

Um, did these people sleep through the midterms? Did they not notice that a majority of voters want the Dems to get us out of Iraq?

And what happened to that chocolate chip corndog product that Jimmy Dean brought out a few weeks ago? I can’t find it on their web site. [Update: Never mind; I found it.]

As for loyalty — like voters care — Bob “the Reptile” Novak complains that Republicans take it a bit too far —

In private conversation, Republican members of Congress blame Majority Leader John Boehner and Majority Whip Roy Blunt in no small part for their midterm election debacle. Yet either Boehner, Blunt or both are expected to be returned to their leadership posts Friday. For good reason, the GOP often is called “the stupid party.”

Dontcha love it when the bad guys keep diggin’ that hole?

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