The White House Inner Circle Grows Ever Smaller
Will President Bush see out the last year of his presidency with only Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, his wife and his dogs as loyal allies?
Henry Kissinger, one of the 20th century's most hideous mass murderers, recently ducked for cover over the Iraq War, after telling Bush before and after the war began that history would view him as a great leader, a world changer, the bravest of the bravest leaders in modern history. Now Kissinger says the Iraq War "cannot be won, militarily".
While there seems to be no shortage of Republicans and NeoCon-aligned media jackals backtracking on their once utterly faithful support of the Iraq War, and now openly criticising the president for doing exactly what they wanted, cheered him, to do, it is the loss of close allies within Bush's inner circle that is doing untold damage to the president's confidence, his standing in old Washington power circles and his place in history. Historians always examine the inner circle of the leaders they're writing about, and weigh up the loyalties and commitment the core crew shows to their leader, through the good times and the bad.
The loss of key players in the Bush administration have been public, but few have come out and hit the media running hard with their criticisms writ large for all to see.
Two weeks ago, one Mathew Dowd became the latest Bush disciple to openly betray his messiah, a man he said he "fell in love with", during the early days of Bush's run for presidency in 1999. He became a key member of the Bush team "brain trust", along with Karl Rove.
It was Dowd who strategized the president's re-election campaign in 2004, and who concocted some of the most foul and odious dirty tricks of the entire campaign.
Now Dowd says, of course, that he was wrong, that his faith in the president was "misplaced". His betrayal of President Bush, in a blatantly open attempt to save what's left of his own reputation and professional life, is almost sickening to read.
But is Dowd trying to help the president by exposing the well-known fact that Bush is 'bubbled' by Cheney and Rove? Did he sacrifice his credibility to save his own skin, or to try and change the unfolding tragedy in Iraq, and in Washington?
If that was Dowd's aim, it seems to have made little difference. His very public abandonment of the sinking Bush ship caught a few headlines for a few days, but it has already been forgotten. Dowd is now just another Iraq War trumpeter who couldn't go the distance, or stay the course of his once so very strong belief, faith and admiration of President Bush.
Dowd actually claims that he considered joining anti-war marches, while he was still holed up inside the White House. The idea of a key Bush ally walking out of the White House and down to the Mall to shout 'Stop the fighting! Stop the War!" is beyond laughable, and may well be a key indicator of just how fantasy-driven his ultimate betrayal really is.
From the New York Times (excerpts) :
In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.
He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.
“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.”
In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.
“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have,” Mr. Dowd said. “Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.”
Mr. Dowd’s journey from true believer to critic in some ways tracks the public arc of Mr. Bush’s political fortunes. But it is also an intensely personal story of a political operative who at times, by his account, suppressed his doubts about his professional role but then confronted them as he dealt with loss and sorrow in his own life.
In the last several years, as he has gradually broken his ties with the Bush camp, one of Mr. Dowd’s premature twin daughters died, he was divorced, and he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic. Mr. Dowd said he had become so disillusioned with the war that he had considered joining street demonstrations against it, but that his continued personal affection for the president had kept him from joining protests whose anti-Bush fervor is so central.
Mr. Dowd, 45, said he hoped in part that by coming forward he would be able to get a message through to a presidential inner sanctum that he views as increasingly isolated. But, he said, he holds out no great hope. He acknowledges that he has not had a conversation with the president.He 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.”
“When you fall in love like that,” he said, “and then you notice some things that don’t exactly go the way you thought, what do you do? Like in a relationship, you say ‘No no, no, it’ll be different.’ ”
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 said he came to believe Mr. Bush’s views were hardening, with the reinforcement of his inner circle. But, he said, the person “who is ultimately responsible is the president.” And he gradually ventured out with criticism, going so far as declaring last month in a short essay in Texas Monthly magazine that Mr. Bush was losing “his gut-level bond with the American people,” and breaking more fully in this week’s interview.
“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.’ ”
He added, “I do feel a calling of trying to re-establish a level of gentleness in the world.”
James Moore, of the Huffington Post, warns that Dowd should not be granted any sympathy. Moore titled his reaction to Dowd's exit this way :
'Why Dowd Is Still Scum' :
His apology...is as calculated as his decision to enlist in Bush's army of deception.
Dowd seems to believe that he can play a role in destroying families with an immoral war and then simply earn forgiveness by saying, "I'm sorry." Through two elections, he brought polling science, strategic thinking, and political advantage to a president determined to accumulate executive power by marginalizing the constitution, and now Dowd thinks expressing sensitivity and remorse in an interview with a newspaper will absolve him of his sins. It does not. And he ought not be trusted. He showed poor judgment by joining Bush and he is equally wrongheaded with his latest public admissions.
Attempting to reinvent himself through journalism, Matthew Dowd suggests he wants to be a part of "bringing gentleness to the world" and that he can see himself doing mission work in Africa or South America.
Unfortunately, he has already been a part of launching a horrific mission in Iraq and he still has not mustered the courage to work for peace.
Dowd's sudden introspection is probably a consequence of his own son's departure for Iraq as an intelligence officer fluent in Arabic. Perhaps, if Dowd and other Republicans supporting Bush's war had thought about the children of other families as much as they do their own, we might not be in Iraq.
Dowd is like every other backer of this conflict because he has not asked himself if it is important enough to risk his own child's life. If it is not a sufficiently strategically critical war to demand the service of Karl Rove's son Andrew, or Jenna and Barbara Bush, or Mark McKinnon's daughters, then it is not essential anyone else's children fight, either. Dowd finally knows this much, but too late for it to make him a man of either influence or consequence.
Dowd's attempt to portray himself as a victim of a betrayal is nonsense. He knew as well as anyone who Karl Rove and George Bush were and what was driving their vision and bipartisan cooperation was not a part of the tapestry of the tragic they were about to weave.
Bush had things to prove to his father. Rove wanted political power...Dowd was central to all of their goals. Dowd was Rove's chief lieutenant, in fact his only one, who helped Bush's Brain exploit polarization of the country for political gain. Dowd's insight was crucial in red flagging the shrinking group of independent voters and he helped create and then sharpen the wedges that Rove used to divide both the electorate and the country. Dowd is second only to Rove as a master technician pouring a poison into our democratic process.
Matthew Dowd is, after all, a pollster, and he knows what is coming. George W. Bush has destroyed the Republican Party and Rove may have inadvertently created a Democratic rather than Republican hegemony by facilitating the president's politics.
Dowd, though, is also a businessman and a consultant who has launched his own company. A Democrat turned Republican may have trouble in the political and economic climate to emerge by 2008. Dowd is doing what he and his GOP consorts have all done so well in recent years; he is positioning himself to be perceived as something other than that which he actually is in order to do well in the marketplace. Chasing after business is also exactly what he was doing when he went to work for Bush. In this regard, he is as deceitful in his mea culpa as he was when he abandoned his principles to labor for Bush.
Dowd..(cannot)...sufficiently atone for their part in our enduring domestic and international American horror. By working for this White House, they have made themselves warmongers and any apology from either of them is as self-serving as their original decisions to join the Bush team. A person does not get to set the world on fire and then drop their flamethrower and say, "I'm sorry."They have done too much harm to expect our forgiveness.
A shattering final blow to Dowd's heart and head is served up here :
I’m tired of Republicans believing that, after destroying the country, all they have to say is “sorry” or "I didn't know Bush was such a right winger" and all should be forgiven.
Political elites who cite personal interactions with the real world as justification for their sudden reversals on issues are not sympathetic figures.
On the contrary, they only reinforce how out of touch the ruling class really is. This happens all the time, whether it is a right-wing, budget-cutting politician who suddenly becomes a passionate crusader against a disease when his family member contracts it, or whether it is a Vice President who decides that the one repudiation of his party’s right-wing will be on gay issues, now that America knows his daughter is gay.
Dowd’s mea culpa, in fact, is probably the best example. He implies that because his son, a soldier, is getting shipped off to Iraq, he now is firmly against the Iraq War. That he was for the war when the war didn’t affect his circle of friends and family suggests a sickening self-centeredness coursing through the American ruling class.
Only when elites are personally affected by their own draconian policies do we hear regret – but not a peep when those draconian policies hammer the faceless, unfamous masses.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis are killed, tens of thousands of American soldiers are killed and maimed, but Bush’s chief strategist only feels regret for the Iraq policy that he championed and that created all this bloodshed when his own son may be put on the line. Could the elitism be any more stark?