Now Bush has Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat to fill. For those conservatives confident that Bush won’t betray them, let’s review Bush’s other ideas about what constitutes a good Republican.
In 2002, Bush backed liberal Richard Riordan in the Republican gubernatorial primary in California against conservative Bill Simon. This triggered a series of events that culminated in Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming the governor of California. But I don’t think even liberals would claim Karl Rove had a plan for California voters to elect Democrat Gray Davis, erupt in a rage at him, and demand a recall election in which a famous Hollywood actor would enter the race and beat the sitting governor.
In 2004, Bush backed liberal Republican Arlen Specter over conservative Pat Toomey in the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania. Bush still lost Pennsylvania and, worst of all, Specter won. So that worked out well.
In 2004, Bush backed Mel Martinez for the open Senate seat in Florida and asked the magnificent Katherine Harris not to run against him, so she graciously bowed out. Martinez has since called on Bush to shut down Guantanamo. What’s Spanish for “buyer’s remorse”?
This year, rumors have it that Bush is again discouraging the magnificent Harris not to run for the Senate. Here’s hoping she ignores him. How much would Bush’s support be worth to Harris at this point anyway? If Bush really wants to keep Katherine Harris out of the U.S. Senate, maybe he should just endorse her.
It’s not like Bush owes Harris or anything. If Harris were as pathetic as the typical Republican supported by Bush, she would have defied the law during the 2000 election crisis and proclaimed Gore the winner just to get the media to love her. Gore would be president now, and Harris would have her own show on MSNBC. I’d be storing away all my summer burkas and, accompanied by a male relative, taking my winter burkas to the dry cleaners to be freshened up.
Also this year, Bush is backing developmentally disabled Lincoln Chafee over the only Republican in the race, Stephen Laffey, Harvard MBA and mayor of Cranston, R.I. Chafee opposes Bush on taxes, Iraq, abortion and gay marriage. This man is literally too stupid to know he’s a Democrat. If Chafee hadn’t inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, he would be living in a shack tending weeds. In the last election, Chafee famously refused to vote for Bush, instead writing in Bush’s father.
What is Bush getting out of this again? Is this the masterstroke of that Machiavellian genius Karl Rove?
Karl Rove is Bob Shrum with a good cause. (Shrum has run eight presidential campaigns; number won: 0, number lost: 8.) Bush calls Rove the “architect” of his 2004 victory. In 2004, America was at war and the Democrats ran a gigolo to be commander in chief. The nation hasn’t changed so much since Reagan was president that the last election should have even been close.
Whenever the nation is threatened by external enemies, the only way Democrats can win a presidential election is with another Watergate. And yet Bush nearly lost the last election. He would have lost, but for the Swiftboat Veterans — also dissed by Bush.
The “architect” of victory was nearly the architect of Bush’s defeat when he advised Bush to come out for gay civil unions one week before the election. In terms of generating enthusiasm, this was the campaign equivalent of a teacher assigning homework late on a Friday afternoon. Judging by the results of more than a dozen elections where gay marriage was on the ballot last year, gay marriage is about as popular in this country as a day celebrating Hitler’s birthday would be. (It is even less popular than the idea of John Kerry as commander in chief in wartime!)
If Ronald Reagan were running today, Rove would have Bush endorse Reagan’s opponent. Establishment Republicans all pretend to have seen Reagan’s genius at the time, but that’s a crock. They wanted to dump Reagan in favor of “electable” Gerald Ford and “electable” George Herbert Walker Bush.
Newsweek reported in 1976 that Republican “party loyalists” thought Reagan would produce “a Goldwater-style debacle.” This is why they nominated well-known charismatic vote magnet Jerry Ford instead.
Again in 1980, a majority of Republican committeemen told U.S. News and World Report that future one-termer George “Read My Lips” Bush was more “electable” than Reagan.
The secret to Reagan’s greatness was he didn’t need a bunch of high-priced Bob Shrums to tell him what Americans thought. He knew because of his work with General Electric, touring the country and meeting real Americans. Two months a year for eight years, Reagan would give up to 25 speeches a day at G.E. plants — a “marination in middle America,” as one G.E. man put it. Reagan himself said, “I always thought Hollywood had the wrong idea of the average American, and the G.E. tours proved I was right.”
Because of these tours, Reagan knew — as he calmly told fretful advisers after the Grenada invasion — “You can always trust Americans.” The G.E. tours completely immunized Reagan from the counsel of people like Karl Rove, who think the average American is a big-business man who just wants his taxes cut and doesn’t care about honor, country, marriage or the unborn.
Reagan knew that this is a great country. If only today’s Republicans would believe it.