On various political fronts, some quick riffs
Dick Polman, Inquirer National Political Columnist
In brief, at week's end...
The winner of this week's Homer Simpson Award is our old friend Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush's stellar career. In a guest appearance the other morning on ABC, Rove insisted that President Obama should march in lockstep with his Afghanistan commander, General Stanley McChrystal, and promptly approve McChrystal's plea for 40,000 new troops - because, after all, the commander in the field knows best. But host Diane Sawyer pointed out that top military people have complained that the Afghanistan troop hike is needed now precisely because the Bush administration under-resourced the war. Rove didn't like that at all. His response: "I don’t believe that at the time, the military was saying we need significantly more (troops). If there had been that cry, I suspect the previous administration would have been very responsive to it...The United States had what, at the time, the military felt was an appropriate level of resources."
Wow. Even now, the Bush team can't stop lying.
Two months ago, McChrystal's predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, complained to The Washington Post that he could not get what he needed from the Bush team, with respect to troop levels, because the White House was so focused on Iraq. McKiernan said, "There was a saying when I got (to Afghanistan): 'If you’re in Iraq and you need something, you ask for it. If you’re in Afghanistan and you need it, you figure out how to do without it.'" He then recounted that, during the late summer of 2008, he had asked Bush for 30,000 more troops - because, after all, the commander in the field knows best...but his request was refused.
Homer's message to Rove: "D'Oh!"
Maybe we should have a moratorium on all polls that seek to measure public sentiment on health care reform, given the new evidence which suggests that a lot people have no idea what's going on. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center this week released some stats showing an alarmingly high rate of public cluelessness. For instance, only 56 percent of Americans know that the "public option" is part of the health reform debate - and 44 percent don't even know what the term refers to. Meanwhile, only 18 percent know that the Senate Finance Committee chairman is Max Baucus; another seven percent think that the chairman is John McCain - a particularly noteworthy finding, not because McCain has rarely shown the slightest interest in the health care issue, but because McCain is a Republican and therefore ineligible to run any committee in a Democratic chamber. And even though most Americans seem to have strong opinions about the health care issues put to them by pollsters, 66 percent nevertheless say that the reform effort is "hard to understand." So the next time you hear the reformers or the naysayers claim to be speaking for "the American people," take it with a chunk of rock salt.
My favorite Fox News factoid of the week: During a report about the Dow clearing 10,000, host Neil Cavuto suggested that this event could be correctly viewed as evidence of a "Bush recovery." (Subliminal message: When the market goes down, blame Obama; when it goes up, credit Bush.) As Cavuto spoke, the on-screen messageboard flashed the word to all credulous couch-potatoes: "Is This The 'Bush Recovery?'" I'll pose a different question: Is it any mystery why the Obama team refuses to play ball with Fox?
Political history junkies got a treat this week. A new book apparently solves the mystery of "Debategate," the 1980 theft of President Jimmy Carter's debate preparation materials, and the secret delivery of those materials to Carter's challenger, Ronald Reagan, on the autumn eve of their only debate. According to Craig Shirley, author of Rendezvous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and The Campaign That Changed America, the culprit was a disgruntled Carter aide named Paul Corbin. Corbin, a Kennedy family loyalist, was ticked off that Carter had beaten Kennedy for the Democratic nomination, and sought to screw Carter in return. So he slipped the Carter debate plan to the Reagan people. Which was a tad ironic, because Corbin had formerly been a card-carrying communist, yet the anti-communist Reagan hardliners had no problems conspiring with him. But, as the saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows. Carter reportedly still blames his '80 defeat on the theft of his debate prep materials ("I don't think there's any doubt that it made some difference"), but he's deluding himself. He was the sole Democratic incumbent to lose a re-election race during the 20th century not because Reagan had his debate book, but because he was stymied by the Iranian hostage crisis, double-digit inflation, and a disgruntled liberal base. Corbin was a symptom of his failures, not the cause.
And finally, following up on Rush Limbaugh, his NFL dreams are apparently toast. League officials and potential Rams investors decided late this week that he would merely foul the air. Sure enough, shortly before he was cut loose, he went on the air and spewed verbiage eerily similar in tone to what I satirized here a few days ago: "This is not about the NFL, it's not about the St. Louis Rams, it's not about me, this is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative. Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we're going to have."
An "ongoing effort by the left"? On the contrary, he got the boot because he was deemed to be bad for business by the business-minded operatives of the National Football League (which, after all, has never been a haven for "the left"). One of Rush's erstwhile investment partners said this week that Rush had to go, because it was "clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction." It's simple, really: Rush, and his rhetorical track record, was high risk - whereas good businessmen seek to minimize risk. That's free enterprise and the American way. Rush, of all people, should have goosebumps about that.