In a slightly surreal open letter to Laura Bush advising her to -- and how to -- straighten out her husband's second term, Sally Quinn shares some interesting insights into what other Republicans think of Bush 43 and his administration:
The biggest problem your husband has now is that so many top Republicans have turned against him. Without the support of his own party, it's pretty much impossible for him to run the country. After the way they went after him over the Dubai ports deal, you can imagine what they are saying about him privately.
Incompetent, unrealistic and insincere were a few of the words circulating at a private dinner recently. Referring to the president's refusal to seek advice on anything -- the war, the economy, foreign policy -- one of the most prominent Republicans in Washington called the situation so dire that he feared "the country would fall apart with another three years of this."
"They don't listen to anybody," said another prominent Republican who was close to the first President Bush.
To a person, every Republican and Democrat I talked to compared your husband to his father. W didn't come out on the winning end. "A real gent," "gracious," "responsive," "inclusive," "conciliatory" were words used to describe the senior Bush. Democrats told how he always returned their phone calls, sometimes at 2 a.m.
Now even Dad's former friends and advisers can't get through. "All of his father's old boys are out in the wilderness together," lamented one of them.
Quinn urges Laura to sweet-talk George into reforming his act, citing "senior Republicans" for the propositions that Bush (a) doesn't listen to people outside his clique, (b) listens to Carl Rove, who likes to win elections (c) doesn't pay attention to what the American people want and need, whereas even Republican congresspeople do (at least in election years), (d) operates a White House that functions like a cult, (e) should get new help, (f) should listen to advice (see a, above), (g) should fire Rummy and hire Lieberman as Secretary of Defense, (h) should work with Congress (including Democrats) instead of ignoring or bullying it, and (i) "[t]ell him to take responsibility for his actions" including Iraq.
All in all, of course, that laundry list is better read as an explanation of why Bush should simply resign, retire to Crawford and resume heavy drinking than as a "letter to Laura". George start listening to other people, working with Congress and considering the needs of ordinary Americans? I'm not holding my breath; it's not in his nature.
What's telling about Quinn's article isn't its (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) "Laura" approach or its unsurprising list of Bush's faults. It's the suggestion that senior (read: old) Republicans -- of his dad's generation -- are finally waking up to how truly abysmal the Bush presidency has been for the country and the Republican party. Bush 41 Republicans were greedy, deceptive, smart, and ultimately fairly moderate. Giving political life to Bush 43 -- who is emotionally needy more than greedy, deceptive as only an unreformed alcoholic can be, fundamentally incurious to the point of stupidity, and deeply gullible in his reliance on faith (Christian, ideological, economic, Rovian) over evidence -- was their greatest mistake, and they're finally realizing that fact.
Those older Republicans still possess power. They could be the Democrats' greatest, secret allies. But while it's tempting to hope that the unseemly caution of Congressional Democrats is attributable to their already having made that alliance, we'd better hope it hasn't been struck yet. The old Republican guard can't topple 43 without Democratic energy, and the Democrats can't allow themselves to be lulled into compacency. Drinking Scotch with a former Bush 41 Cabinet member while dissing 43 isn't enough; we need Feingoldian energy plus Republican defections or at least passivity to even think about succeeding.
The stage is set for either a minor and temporary, or significant and enduring, Democratic takeover of both the Congress and the White House. Minor and temporary is enough to start, and it's in play already. The 41s do understand political reality; they know, deep down, that their party must pay a price for having elevated such a dangerous stooge to the Presidency without adequate controls, and being realpoliticians, they won't balk (much) at paying that price, at least in the short term. The price: Democratic control of Congress, if not in '06 then in '08, and possibly a Democratic return to the White House for one term. To take that deal, however, it's not enough for Democrats to lay low while a few well-placed Republican old-schoolers surreptitously undermine their party's Bushian and theocratic elements from their side; Democrats need to give things a vigorous shove from their side as well. Those well-placed Republicans may be willing to do their part. Are the Democrats?
And, looking a little farther into the future, we Resistance Democrats need to prepare for the next war. That war has already started, as the DLC and DCCC work to extinguish progressive voices from the party and consolidate control of the party in corporatist, unipartisan hands in the '06 Congressional midterms. But it won't turn into a real shooting war until after the November elections, when the accommodationist Democrats will make their move to appoint Hillary to the White House with some cooperation from the Old Guard Republicans, who will accept that Bush's failures put the White House temporarily out of Republican reach and who will be willing (good Calvinists that they are) to suffer the relatively mild penance of seeing a corporatist Democrat babysit the White House for one term while they ready Jeb for 2012.
The Game for all Democrats is to accept any allies, even Bush 41 cronies and Democrats with whom they disagree, in the effort to retake one or both houses of Congress in '06 -- and to have the courage and wisdom to do what it takes, on top of those allies' efforts, to win that objective (Feingold's censure resolution, of course, being the obvious start). Then, after next November, the Game for all progressive Democrats will be to take the moderate Republicans' and DLC's bait and reject their hook, by doing whatever it takes to see that a progressive Democrat, and not a regressive one like Hillary, is positioned to profit from the inevitable "bounce" we'll get in '08 following the debacle that is Bush 43.
I know this may be stretching it, but purely for illustrative purposes, the situation is analogous to the one America faced at the end of WWII: the U.S. (progressive Democrats) and Soviets (DLC Democrats) were allies until Hitler (Bush) fell, and at that moment became enemies again. FDR's failure at Yalta was his failure to plan ahead for that shift, but we needn't make a similar mistake. In '06, all Democrats are allies. In '08, however, there's going to be civil war. Both those savvy, wizened Bush 41ers and their DLC allies understand that, and are positioning themselves already. Let's be sophisticated enough to understand it, as well, and beat both groups at their own game.
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