Oops, We Did It Again
Bush can eat crow now, or eat more of it later.
Friday, Oct. 20, 2006
Why abandon Karl for his evil twin Kim? Some reasons are obvious. Every good campaign needs a madman. Kim's colorful personal life and successful rehab will give him credibility with embattled Republican incumbents. Helping the RNC develop a credible nuclear threat would give it a powerful weapon to mobilize turnout in tough years like this.
But the real reason to hire Kim Jong-il is that he has stumbled onto what may be the only desperate strategy Bush has left: to say he's sorry. It's so crazy, it just might work.
Yesterday, Kim met with a delegation from China. According to a South Korean newspaper, Kim told the Chinese that "he is sorry about the nuclear test."
Saying you're sorry has become a staple of modern politics. But even in this apologetic age, Kim has set a new standard. Most apologies take years, decades, or sometimes centuries. Kim put North Korea in a position to start World War III and apologized just 10 days later. Doom today, oops tomorrow.
Of course, we don't know whether Kim is actually sorry. For that matter, the report appeared in the South Korean press, so he may never have even told the Chinese he was sorry. It may be some kind of passive-aggressive tic that will lead him to bomb Japan and then tell the world he was only kidding.
Still, President Bush could learn a thing or two from his crazed nemesis. Bush is cruising for a bruising from American voters in November. Conservatives have already begun their circular firing squad, but after Election Day, the only target will be George Bush. Even if Democrats don't take back both houses of Congress, conservatives will still blame Bush for a near-death experience. If Democrats sweep, Mark Foley will be the answer to a trivia question, but all sides will long remember how much they couldn't stand Bush.
The White House's current strategy—indeed, the political strategy of the entire Bush presidency—is the opposite of an apology. They plan to take their lumps and tough it out. Forget "stay the course"—Rove's survival plan is "keep smiling."
The Bush White House believes it must keep a stiff upper lip so the base doesn't lose hope for November. But the base is the one most convinced that the end is near. Elected Republicans openly predict an electoral debacle. Only Bush's inner circle, in the tradition of Katrina, acts like it can't see disaster at its door.
Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at email@example.com. Read his disclosure here.
Photographs of: George Bush on Slate's home page by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images; power station on Slate's home page by Digital Vision; the Eiffel Tower on Slate's home page by Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images; Karl Rove on Slate's home page by David McNew/Getty Images.