Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Adventures of Superman sans Boy Wonder

To expand upon a comment he made on the indelectable Digby's Hullabaloo site regarding Karl Rove's much discussed career move, Doctor Biobrain speculates thusly:

What is all this harrumph-harrumphing about Karl Rove getting a promotion, perhaps giving him title to the Presidential throne? What possible career change could be on order for Rove? He was originally brought on as a Svengali to help get an unsuccessful son of a President into the White House. And he's been given full access to the man ever since. There is probably no more influential man in Washington than Karl Rove. So, for a political junkie, where is there to go from there?


And that's exactly what this is: a demotion. In the political world appearances are absolutely everything. And if you fire someone, you are admitting a failure or defeat. And the higher up the firing, the worse the admitted failure. That is simply how the game is played. And there is no higher unelected person in this White House than Karl Rove, so firing him would be admitting to the worst of all failures.

So what can you do if you want to dismiss someone from your service without signaling defeat? You give them a different, important sounding job and call it a promotion (I learned that a long time ago from Winston Churchill, btw). This way, you get them out of your hair, without embarrassing yourself or them.

Why do I say that this is the case? Because Rove is a political junkie and there was no where else for him to go. The only "promotion" he could possibly have would be to give him even more control over Bush, Congress, and the Media; and that's not a job title kind of promotion. But more importantly, his new job sounds completely outside of his realm of expertise. He's a political junkie, expert at framing debates and using policy as a political weapon. Yet his job title says he'll be "coordinating policy". That sounds like an admin job, not a political job. It's fancy and important, but it hardly sounds like the work for a spinmeister extraordinaire like Rove.

And it also sounds like it's moving him away from Bush. Rove had one of those jobs that didn't necessarily sound important, yet you knew that it was. Similarly, many executive admins working directly under a CEO are often more important and influential than a VP. The VP might have a better seat at the weekly meeting, but the admin gets to decide who gets to see the CEO. And of course Rove was far more powerful than that. But now they've got him in charge of administrative functions. That doesn't make sense...unless it was a demotion and they're trying to get him away from the President.

Another question is: "why"? That's a bit more difficult. But I think it's because of the re-election. It was a squeaker and even Bush had to start having doubts as election day approached. But now he's like a condemned man who was pardoned while sitting on the electric chair and walking on top of the world. And while some people would repent their evil ways after such a close call, Bush saw this last election as a complete redemption of everything he did. They butter him up by telling him how bold he is, and now he's bold dammit. So bold that he's not going to listen to anyone.

Tied into that, he's not running for re-election anymore. So why should he worry about politics at all? Why should he listen to some fuddy-duddy political guru who thinks he's so damn smart? If he's so smart, why isn't he the President. And people keep suggesting that Rove is really running the show, so what better way to prove who's the boss than by foregoing Rove's advice and trusting his own political instincts instead. Or so Bush must be thinking.

And the issue that I think (via the eponymous Digby again) that Bush is using to test out his power is Social Security. This is a bold, bold President and everyone knows (political gurus most of all) that messing with Social Security is the "third rail" of politics. And he wants to create a bold, bold domestic policy for which he'll be remembered. If Ronald Reagan was the right's Franklin Roosevelt, then Bush wants to combine them together and make a right-winger who saved the world from tyranny and reformed our financial security for decades to come. And what better way than to deal directly with one of FDR's greatest accomplishments which even the venerable Ronald Reagan punted on. That is a bold sentiment indeed.

And in my belief, too bold for a political guru. I have no doubts that Rove would like to "fix" Social Security (much the same way they I fixed my cats). And I equally have no doubts that Rove initially tried to push on this agenda. But it is obvious that it will go nowhere. I once said that about us going to war in Iraq, but this is so much more obvious. The support is just not there, especially as the redder states talk a tough game, but they really do love their benefits.

So I believe that Rove wants out. He likes to take on a challenge, but this really is an issue that might cause Republicans to lose the Senate and/or House in the next election. That kind of thing is simply in the cards already and this issue is tailor-made to make that happen. And Rove's real bosses do not want that to happen, so he's got to be wanting to pull tail and run.

Long post short (too late), because junior's got an FDR complex and has clearly outgrown his britches, he has decided to push Rove into a fringe position. Rove isn't out. But he's lost much of his power.

I should add that, in order to understand this better, people really need to drop their juvenile attitude of how the White House works. Bush has handlers, not puppet-masters. They decide who gets to talk to him and how long they get to talk and on what subjects they can speak, but at the end of the day Bush really is the man to convince. I firmly believe that despite Rove and Cheney's influence, Bush really is the decision maker which would help explain many of the muddle-headed decisions from the White House. And this recent job change for Rove is yet another move by Bush to convince himself that the decisions really are his.

This entire post is the purest of speculation, of course, but I believe that Bush's re-election has made him believe that he is bulletproof and he wants to test it by flying solo. He has come to believe that he is Superman and Superman doesn't have a trusty sidekick. So Boy Wonder's been given a real job and Superman's about to discover kryptonite. We can only hope that he stretches this out long enough to bring us into the homestretch.

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