It’s smoke and mirrors times at The White House.
First, it was Andy Card, the White House Chief of Staff. In March for reasons not made public (although I am betting it was prompted by a long lecture to President Bush from President Bush, the Senior), Andy decided maybe he didn’t want to be Chief of Staff anymore. (The yowl you heard was from his arm being so painfully twisted.) Taking his place was Josh Bolten, previously the head of the Office of Management and Budget. Josh was promoted because, well, it is hard to say why. Perhaps he was promoted because he was doing such a (cough, cough) terrific job balancing the federal budget. On the other hand, maybe it was because President Bush looked into his soul. We all know now what a fine judge of character our president is. I mean, look how well it worked with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (not to mention Vladimir Putin).
Karl Rove, Bush’s Senior Political Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, whom most credit for Republican gains in the last two elections, was told that he was working too hard. Rove was told to stop with the policy oversight stuff, and spend his time focusing on the upcoming Congressional elections. Republicans have plenty about which to worry. With a Fox News poll showing Bush’s approval rating at 33%, and a Congressional approval rating at 25%, some Republicans have finally discerned the obvious: their power trip may be over. It is time for more of the voodoo that Karl does so well and quickly before Republicans lose both houses of Congress in November. If they do not retain control then Bush will accomplish nothing in the last two years of his term. Even worse, the rich might have to pay higher taxes again. Oh Lordy, what nightmares! With his approval ratings in the toilet, Bush is already dead politically. Apparently, the political capital he thought he won in 2004 was an IOU. While Bush says, “I am the decider,” the American public has already decided: they want him and the Republicans out of power post haste. Bush never understood that real political capital is earned from the consent of the governed. Anyhow, Karl has to run to the rescue again to save their fannies. What will it be this time? Fear? Fear and rabid demagoguery? It will doubtless be some variation of the above. It’s their one trick pony, but it is unlikely to work this year. Americans have finally wised up. They are practically chomping at the bit to deliver their comeuppance. Even Pavlov’s dog figured out eventually that there was no need to keep salivating if the food no longer arrived on cue.
Scotty (Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary) was also sent out to pasture. I actually feel a tiny bit of sympathy for Scott. He had to stand in front of the cameras day in and day out and convey the unchanging White House message. He excelled at obfuscation, denial and outright lying. However, he had his marching orders. He was the loyal, dutiful but ultimately stupid good soldier, even falling on his sword in the end for the foolish bosses he served. Those making the policy did not have to talk to either the press or the public. They were much more comfortable in their ivory towers. Scotty could not evade the press. Josh figured out that maybe the White House needs something other than an angry pit pull as press secretary. Reputedly, Tony Snow of Fox News is being considered for the job. Well, at least that would establish indisputably that Fox News was just an extension of the White House.
As for the new Deputy Chief of Staff, Bolten is emulating our president, who can judge character by how many (nonalcoholic) mint juleps he has had with a guy. Therefore, Joel Kaplan, Josh’s deputy at OMB, became the logical choice for Deputy Chief of Staff. Meanwhile, Josh has told the White House staff that if they were even thinking of resigning, this would be a great opportunity. It looks better than being fired.
Doubtless, there will be more staff shakeups in the weeks ahead. Bush is hoping that with some new staff that his administration will have a shiny and new look to it. Do not be fooled. This is the same soap in a different box. It is not like, God forbid, Bush is actually firing the incompetent fools who helped make such a colossal mess of his administration. Cheney, of course, is still at Bush’s right hand. Bush said on Wednesday that Donald Rumsfeld is doing a “fine job” and “I have strong confidence in Donald Rumsfeld.”
It may be that Bush will have no choice other than to get rid of some of his closest advisors. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who last fall convinced a grand jury to issue an indictment against Cheney’s former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, appears to be closing in on an indictment of Karl Rove. It may be that Karl will be too busy hiring $400 an hour lawyers and trying to keep his posterior out of prison to spend too much time worrying about congressional elections.
As for Josh Bolten, what he has is Mission Impossible. You know the metaphors too. The one that comes to mind to me: his job is to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Go ahead Josh. Believe that all these personnel shuffles actually mean something. Go ahead and hope that they will make a difference. They will not. Not even an October surprise is going to save this president and his Republican congress this time. Your only hope this time is massive vote fraud. Sadly, it appears your party has acquired some significant skills in this area. However, you know things are bad when even in Texas, more people disapprove of Bush than approve of him. He now stands naked not just in front of the world, but in front of his countrymen, and worst of all, his fellow Texans.
There is no way out of this Pandora’s box. Government exists to serve the interests of the people, not special interests. Why are the Nepalese rioting against their king? They riot because their government is not meeting their needs. Generally, Americans overlook quite a bit but they too have a breaking point. It is not that the breaking point is going to occur, it already has occurred. Republicans, being clueless about these things, just do not grasp this yet. Denial is much more comforting. Nevertheless, the truth is that it is late in the fourth act of Hamlet and Fortinbras has entered the castle. The bodies are starting to drop like flies. The denouement has already begun.