March 31, 2007
Former Democrat Matthew Dowd Becomes Democrat As Election Looms!
The media madness continues, as the New York Times has found a new, er, scandal with which to bash President Bush and portray him as a hopelessly divisive figure who has destroyed America.
In a (presumably front page) story dated tomorrow, they interview former Bush "insider" Matthew Dowd -- once a Democrat, then a Republican, now a Democrat again -- who proceeds to spout every current liberal talking point to bash Bush. Alas, this does not appear to be an April Fools wheeze.
In 1999, Matthew Dowd looked at the field of presidential candidates and evidently decided that Gov. George W. Bush had the best chance of winning. Although Dowd was a longtime Democratic operative, he switched parties, joined the Bush team as top pollster, and helped elect him over Al Gore. In 2004, the Times claims that Dowd was named chief campaign strategist; but most sources say that Karl Rove held that job... and indeed, the Times agrees that Rove was Dowd's boss. Thus, I'm not sure what actual position Dowd held in the 2004 campaign... but he certainly worked to reelect George W. Bush.
But by 2005, Dowd's "doubts," which he had "suppressed," began to overwhelm him, he now says. He decided that Bush was a divider, not a uniter. Let's take a look at what precipitated those doubts...
Bush the uniter
In the beginning, what Dowd says first attracted him to Bush as a candidate was his stance on education and immigration:
“It’s almost like you fall in love,” he said. “I was frustrated about Washington, the inability for people to get stuff done and bridge divides. And this guy’s personality -- he cared about education and taking a different stand on immigration.”
But Bush's stand on both these issues is unchanged from 1999: Every budget he has submitted has pounded more and more sand down the rathole of the Department of Education; he has never repudiated the pro-affirmative action positions he took in Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003) and Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003); and he is still today pushing harder than ever for comprehensive immigration reform... even trying to work with the new Democratic Congress to get it.
Somehow, that no longer counts as "hands across the aisle" with Matthew Dowd.
Bush the divider
Now, Dowd sees Bush as arrogant and divisive, refusing to listen to the will of the people... thus forcing Dowd to publicly attack his former boss (and incidentally flip back to being a Democrat, just in time for the 2008 campaign season). What are the issues that drove him over the edge?
The September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks:
"[Dowd] said he thought Mr. Bush handled the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks well but 'missed a real opportunity to call the country to a shared sense of sacrifice.'"
Right. Of course, we mustn't consider the numerous speeches he made doing exactly that, warning of a long twilight struggle against global terrorism, and calling on every American to show the same sort of vigilance they did in World War II; going into diplomatic overdrive to get as many nations as possible involved in the fight; pushing through laws like the USA PATRIOT Act; reforming the intelligence agencies; and ordering Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to completely redesign the military to fight the threat we face, rather than the threat we used to face when there was a Soviet Union. No "shared sense of sacrifice" there!
And one certainly cannot claim that the American people responded. After all, Bush had an approval rating fell one point short of 90% on several polls -- and it only stayed extraordinarily high for a mere ten months, until July of 2002, when it finally sank into the high 60s for good. That's peanuts compared to the response a Democrat would have gotten.
Bush managed to limp along in the low-60s right up through the run-up to the Iraq war... and then, when the war started, Bush's job-approval only went back up into the 70s -- not the high 80s. That's just bubkes!
His approval did not finally drop into the low 50s, high 40s until September 2003, when it finally became obvious that Iraq was not going to be like Afghanistan, that it was going to be a long, hard war -- just as Bush said it would be back in 2002.
I'm not exactly sure what Dowd means by saying Bush "missed a real opportunity to call the country to a shared sense of sacrifice;" an approval rating well above 70% -- which he had through much of this time -- is about as "shared" as the American electorate has ever been. But of course, I am only an egg, not a deputy chief campaign strategist, like Mr. D.
"[Dowd] was dumbfounded when Mr. Bush did not fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after revelations that American soldiers had tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib." [Where "tortured" here means "frightened and humiliated".]
Fire Rumsfeld? For what, exactly? The soldiers guarding Abu Ghraib were not following any Pentagon rules when they stripped prisoners, made them wear women's underware, threatened them, engaged in mock-execution theater -- and certainly not when Spec. Lynndie England herself reportedly stripped naked and paraded before the prisoners (and her own fellow soldiers).
They were investigated long before anybody in the news found out about it; in fact, Sy Hirsch only learned of the incidents at Abu Ghraib from the report that Maj.Gen. Antonio Taguba delivered to Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Everyone involved was court-martialed, convicted, cashiered, and sent up the river.
Yet Dowd claims to have been "dumbfounded" that Bush didn't also fire his wildly successful Secretary of Defense, who had nothing whatsoever to do with any of this... at a time when the only people calling for his head were Democrats and the elite media. (I wonder; would Dowd also suggest firing the Secretary of Defense whenever a Navy ship runs aground?)
I begin to smell a rat...
Dowd wants us to believe that after Bush was reelected in 2004 as a Republican, Down was convinced that the president would start governing as a Democrat; it was his disappointment that Bush remained a Republican -- and two incidents in particular -- that sent Dowd around the bend:
He said he clung to the hope that Mr. Bush would get back to his Texas style of governing if he won. But he saw no change after the 2004 victory.
He describes the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the president’s refusal in the summer of 2005 to meet with the war protester Cindy Sheehan, whose son died fighting in Iraq, around the same time that Mr. Bush entertained the bicyclist Lance Armstrong at his Crawford ranch as further cause for doubt.
“I had finally come to the conclusion that maybe all these things along do add up,” he said. “That it’s not the same, it’s not the person I thought.”
Naturally, the Times doesn't give us any details about the Hurricane Katrina charge; when serving up a tepid charge in a hit piece, it's always best to resort to vague rumblings about the target's "handling" of such and such; such accusations can never be disproven, unless the handling was literally perfect (which would only occur if we elected God to the presidency.)
The problem is that, when you really start to break down what the president did (and when he did it) before, during, and after that hurricane, you discover that the performance was far from being the bureaucratic disaster it is routinely (and falsely) painted by the drive-by media. In reality, the Bush administration acted swiftly, decisively, and effectively to minimize the Katrina damage and loss of life.
The mistakes they made were relatively minor, especially compared to the much larger mistakes made by soon-to-be-former Lousiana Gov. Kathleeen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (who squeaked to reelection in 2006 by 52-48 in a runoff).
Were it not for the Bush administration's rapid pre-landing response and post-landing followup, thousands more people would be dead.
So what exactly was it about Bush's handing of the hurricane that so saddened Matthew Dowd? I would love to know if Dowd still believes the long-discredited urban legends of multiple murders, rapes, and cannibalism in the Superdome...
And now we really get to the meat: Dowd was stunned that President Bush refused to meet -- for a second time -- with Cindy Sheehan, during the time she had become "the angriest dog in the world" (that's a David Lynch reference, not a comment on her perfectly average looks): camping out in front of Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch, calling him the most vile epithets, accusing him of "murdering" her son, and in general, acting like an unstable mental patient undergoing an episode.
But Bush should have met with her, Dowd says, because...? He offers no reason.
Has he even thought through what would have happened had Bush met with her? She would have berated him, hectored him, lectured him, screamed at him, insulted him and the office, issued diktats that he could not possibly obey, and belittled Bush, the presidency, and the United States -- all on national TV. This would be live, if Bush were foolish enough to allow cameras at the meeting; or if not, then later, when Sheehan would gleefully have reenacted her tantrum for the cameras.
It would have been a PR nightmare, and it would certainly have further damaged the war support, already precarious. If that really were Dowd's advice at the time (which I highly doubt), then thank God he's out of the White House. Were I a Democratic candidate for the presidency considering hiring him for the upcoming campaign, that comment alone would kill the deal for me.
It's as nutty as saying that Bush should attend an anti-war sit-in. It's not merely bad advice, it's stupid advice. But at last, this leads us into the crux of Mr. Dowd's complaints...
The war thing
It really seems to boil down to the Iraq war. But there is an aspect of Dowd's change of heart that particularly disturbs me (repels me, actually): Dowd admits arriving at his new moral denunciation of the war for reasons as personal, if not as drastic, as Cindy Sheehan's:
His views against the war began to harden last spring when, in a personal exercise, he wrote a draft opinion article and found himself agreeing with Mr. Kerry’s call for withdrawal from Iraq. He acknowledged that the expected deployment of his son Daniel was an important factor....
“If the American public says they’re done with something, our leaders have to understand what they want,” Mr. Dowd said. “They’re saying ‘Get out of Iraq.’ ”
First of all, there is no evidence the American people are saying "get out of Iraq." They're clearly saying they not happy with the Iraq war.
But does that mean they necessarily want to immediately abandon Iraq, the Iraqis, and all of our allies, leaving Iraq to complete collapse, to become another failed state -- and a new training and staging ground for al-Qaeda?
Or do the people mean they want to start seeing tangible victories?
To paraphrase Hermann Göring, whenever I hear a man say he is the vox populi -- I reach for my airsickness bag. Oh, please, Matthew Dowd; nobody elected you to lead the American people; they elected (twice) the guy you're now trashing!
But what tore it for me anent Dowd and his fabulous bag of Bush betrayals is his admission that what really turned him so strongly against the war was when "he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic."
That was when Dowd "[wrote] but never submitted an op-ed article titled 'Kerry Was Right,' arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq."
This is repugnant. Dowd was not particularly opposed to the war when other people's sons and daughters were bravely volunteering to defend democracy and modernity against the most horrific butcher in the Middle East, a man who supported barbaric terrorists and who was in talks with al-Qaeda to develop a closer relationship; he didn't speak up when other people's fathers and mothers were risking their lives to create a stable democracy in the heart of the Arab ummah, to try to rescue 25 million people from the hell of the Non-Integrating Gap and nationbuild them into the Functioning Core instead.
No, Down has his epiphany only when his own son nobly (and voluntarily) undertakes that same mission. My God, how humiliated that soldier must feel, now that the New York Times is about to plaster his father's grotesque road-to-Damascus conversion on Sunday's front page: his own father saying that this brave and committed soldier is on a fool's errand, has been duped, and is walking into an unwinnable disaster.
Dowd, with his vast military experience, must certainly know more than Lt.Gen. David Petraus and the troops who are actually on the ground in Iraq -- including, most likely, his own son, whom the Times did not see fit to interview (or perhaps they did, and they simply decided it was not part of "all the news that is fit to print"). Thanks again, Mr. D.
Of course, it's only a coincidence that a new election looms -- with Democratic candidates who might win. I'm sure that realization never factored into the calculations that led Matthew Dowd to reconvert back to the Democratic Party and start publicly Bush-bashing. Nor his decision to parrot back all the Democratic, anti-Bush talking points.
After all, he assures us he has no ambition to be involved in this year's presidential campaigns; and Matthew Dowd is an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men:
Mr. Dowd does not seem prepared to put his views to work in 2008. The only candidate who appeals to him, he said, is Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, because of what Mr. Dowd called his message of unity. But, he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t walking around in Africa or South America doing something that was like mission work.”
He added, “I do feel a calling of trying to re-establish a level of gentleness in the world.”
So after first being "converted" to the Republican Party by the prospect of a winning presidential campaign... now Dowd feels a "calling" back to the Democratic Party -- now that there's a Democratic candidate who might be able to win. A candidate with a message of "unity" -- and a rating from the Americans for Democratic Action of 95%, the same rating as has Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sens. Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Pat Leahy... uniters all. (Obama's rating from the American Conservative Union is 8%.)
Yes, I can see how Dowd might be attracted to such a non-polarizing figure as Barack Obama; but that doesn't explain Dowd's divisive attacks on the man he worked for, until there were no more elections in Bush's future.
This is truly sad; but it's just one more example of the biggest problem that George W. Bush had and continues to have: He has an inexplicable urge to trust liberals and Democrats in key positions and as key advisors, from liberal Republican Colin Powell as Secretary of State, to Democrat Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation, to Sen. Ted Kennedy as a partner on education issues and the AARP on prescription-drug policies... to Matthew Dowd as chief pollster and later deputy chief campaign strategist.
Like the scorpion and the frog, we know how that always turns out in the end.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 31, 2007, at the time of 8:53 PM
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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael
Meh... you never know in which capacity Mr. Dowd was used at the White House. Bush seems to like having all points of view close to hand, even the ones he thinks he will disagree with. It might be handy to have a reflexive Liberal 'inside' where you could have more influence over their ability to delay passing information along to the NY Times.
Bush hired him to write, and to work with the group making campaign strategy. Did Bush ever say "You know Dowdy, you are absolutely right... I SHOULD do it your way!" Or was it, as I'm betting, more of a case of "That idea sounds foolish... see if Dowdy would buy it".
Dunno. But I personally don't subscribe to the "Bush is an idiot" meme... and having a reflexive Lib in the room could be useful. Give him a title that sounds grand and he'd be happy. Heck, pat him on the back once and a while, and it may take him six YEARS to figure out who he's working for! :)
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