Muscular co-author Rahm Emanuel smartly parried Bush's thrust yesterday by calling for a no-confidence vote on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the runaway winner in any secret ballot on "who lost Iraq?" Instead of just putting Democrats on the spot, the White House campaign forces Republican incumbents to make a fundamental strategic decision about whether all politics is local—or global.
Run Away!: Judging from the early returns, the smart Republicans aren't taking the White House's bait. John McCain, who said long ago he has "no confidence" in Rumsfeld, used a campaign appearance for Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine to criticize the administration's handling of Iraq. As John Dickerson reports, Rudy Giuliani—who is courting the conservative base—went out of his way to warn against waving the partisan shirt in wartime.
One of the most embattled Republicans in the country, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is running so far away from Bush that he spent the week letting Democrats give California its own foreign policy by enacting a landmark plan to cut the state's carbon dioxide emissions.
White House strategists no doubt believe their gambit will work this time because it worked before, in both 2002 and 2004. As a certain wildly overhyped book points out:
Rove invented a perpetual-motion machine: Republicans fail on national security, which invites Democratic criticism, which lets Republicans attack Democrats for lack of resolve, which buys Republicans more time to fail on national security.
Off the record, White House aides might also argue that they have no other choice—in most polls, national security is just about the only issue where Democrats don't have a substantial lead.
It's the Perfect Way to Hide: But the real reason for the White House strategy may be more basic: An all-politics-is-local campaign would leave the president with nothing to do. Bush rightly considers himself one of the best campaigners on the Republican side and doesn't want to spend his last campaign as little more than fundraiser-in-chief.
As a result, the president is like King Arthur's trusted servant Patsy in Spamalot. While Republican incumbents everywhere try to sing, "I'm all alone," Bush keeps interrupting to say, "Oh, no, you're not … I'm here, you twat!"
Individual Republicans in tough swing districts will still try to run local races and pretend they've never met either Jack Abramoff or the president. But the new White House strategy virtually guarantees that voters will see the midterms as a national election. These days, nothing could do more to test Republicans' resolve than hearing Bush say, you're either with us or against us. ... 12:33 P.M. (link)
Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006
Tale of the Tape: Forget the Census Bureau's report on income and poverty and the College Board's report on declining SAT scores. The only one number from today's papers that George Bush cares about is in the Style section: Just weeks after the aging president's annual physical revealed that his weight, body mass index, and body fat all ballooned last year, Karl Rove is running around boasting that a liquid diet has helped him lose 22 pounds.