What do you do with a drunken sailor?

Notes from the political sidelines.
Oct. 29 2006 11:59 PM

What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?

With this election sinking fast, Republicans debate how not to lose the next one.

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But I find it hard to believe that a president best known for reading My Pet Goat would set out to read 100 books in one year just to impress the help. He couldn't find the time or the books without the help of his wife, the librarian.

Literacy is a great cause, but Laura Bush has taught us something else as well: You can't judge a president by his library card. ... 5:01 P.M. (link)

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Friday, Oct. 20, 2006

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Hail Mary: If George Bush wants to make one last-ditch effort to cut Republican losses in November, he should dump Karl Rove and bring on a new strategist: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

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."

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