Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pirouette on a Pinhead

Has the "Blossom" lost his petals? Judging by the Bush administration's handling of Gay Marriage 2.0 - The Immigration Scare, one must wonder whether Karl Rove has not been knocked off his game ever so slightly. Poor Karl does have a lot on his mind, as recounted in this Newsweek article (via Swopa):

Privately, Rove’s friends and colleagues tell NEWSWEEK that the senior Bush aide has struggled to maintain an upbeat front about his legal status in recent weeks and that he has appeared distracted. . . .

...One House Republican who attended a session with Rove two weeks ago at the White House told Newsweek that the CIA leak investigation never came up, but that it seemed obvious" the subject was on Rove’s mind. According to the lawmaker, who declined to be named while talking about a private meeting, Rove is known to be strong-willed and combative during political strategy sessions. At this meeting, the lawmaker says, Rove appeared to have "less bite."
This latest attempt to stir up the fear quotient in the base by the suddenly defanged and flaccid Blossom is kind of backfiring - to put it mildly. The problems with the approach are obvious and the features decidedly un-Rovian: instead of driving a wedge between Democratic factions, Rove has found one of the few issues that Republicans will turn on each other over. And made it a central part of election year 2006. No doubt seduced by the potency of the highly charged xenophobia within certain factions of the GOP, Rove made a play for the base but came up short. Instead, he has heightened the internal contradictions within the Party.

The far Right's hostility to immigrants, especially those from south of the border, stands in direct conflict with big business's desire for sub-minimum wage labor and the GOP's reliance on religiously conservative Hispanics for future Party growth/stability. To navigate this minefield, Bush must perform a series of graceful pirouettes on top of a pinhead. Without a safety net. And this is a man who is not known for deftness on his feet.

One theory was that Rove's strategy might be more regional in scope - seeking to bolster and enhance GOP support in redder/border states in order to maintain what could be eroding advantages in the House and Senate. But the policies and rhetoric put forth thus far haven't had the requisite red-meat to really rally the base in those states. In fact, it's having the opposite effect. And as the rhetoric and the policies grow more muddled and divergent, pulled in opposing directions by powerful forces, the Bush administration has managed to alienate almost everyone while pleasing none.

In particular, that same coveted "base" is up in near-revolt. Glenn Greenwald has a nifty roundup of the conservative blogosphere's response to Bush's recent schizophrenic oration on the "great immigration ploy of 2006." Judging by the heated reaction, and the fact that it is emanating from some of the most devoted, cultish followers, Bush might actually be in jeopardy of losing some of that 29%.

Even John Hinderaker, the man who puts the "sick" in sycophant, who once compared Bush to a man of "extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius," incapable of error, only "one masterpiece after another," has seen fit to criticize his personal Mozart on the Potomac.

[Bush] had his chance and he blew it. He should have given the speech I told him to. As soon as he started talking about guest worker programs and the impossibility of deporting 11 million illegals, it was all over. President Bush keeps trying to find the middle ground, on this and many other issues. But sometimes, there isn't a viable middle ground. This is one of those instances.
One can almost see the tears hitting the keyboard as a distraught Hindrocket penned his 'Dear George' letter. Mark Levin of the National Review called the speech "pure idiocy." Unsurprisingly, Michelle Malkin lamented, "empty platitude after platitude...laid on thick." Others have taken to calling Bush "Jorge" - making a mockery of Bush's 'closeness' to Spanish speaking immigrants. That is worthy of scorn, huh?

The hopelessly hagiographic Hugh Hewitt admitted to the fact that his after-speech interview with Julie Myers of the Department of Homeland Security "staggered me, undoing in a handful of minutes my confidence in the president's commitment to border security first." John Hawkins summed up the general mood quite well:
After the speech last night, I took a look around the right side of the blogosphere to get a sense of what people thought. The reaction was probably -- oh, let's say somewhere between 75-90% negative and to be truthful, as often as not, I got the impression that the bloggers who said they liked the speech were reading out of the old "root, root, root for the home team playbook" rather than genuinely being enthused about what Bush had to say.
At the root of this rare show of internal dissent are a few factors, the most important of which has to do with Karl Rove's failure to appreciate the changing nature of Bush's support even from within the Party. At his recent speech before the neo-con think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, Rove dismissed the recent abysmal poll numbers stating:

But the polls I believe are the polls that get run through the RNC. And I look at those polls all the time. The American people like this president. His personal approval ratings are in the 60s. Job approval is lower. And what that says to me is that people like him, they respect him, he’s somebody they feel a connection with, but they’re just sour right now on the war. And that’s the way it’s going to be.
Rove might want to pore over some of that internal, RNC data again. Because the long, extended, era of rigid discipline and hyper-allegiance are nearing sunset. The succession of blows sustained by the far-Right in the form of Harriet Meirs, Dubai and now immigration have served to undermine the cult of Bush on one side of the Party. Creeping in from the center-Right are feelings of displeasure with foreign policy efforts in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere, the Katrina fiasco, as well as soaring deficits, a lack of vision and the reverse drag of the coattails from Bush's sagging popularity.

No longer will Bush get a free pass on all manner of policy by virtue of his position as party leader. The knives are out, and Rove better be paying attention. Especially when he decides to try to thread such a needle as this - one fraught with as much raw emotion, hatred and xenophobia. And one that threatens to upset the business holdings of the Party's all important monied interests. In closing, I thought I'd leave you with a bit of Right-wing rhetoric on immigration, straight - no chaser. A glance into the mindset that Karl & Co. are up against. The temptation to get the base fired up is strong, but if you play with this kind of raging fire, you might just get burned. Careful Karl (via Digby):
Dear Jorge plans to address the nation tonight, a speech wherein he will almost surely attempt to deceive citizens into believing that he does not wish the mass migration from Mexico to continue unabated. [...]

And he will be lying, again, just as he lied when he said: "Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic – it's just not going to work."

Not only will it work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society. [emphasis mine]
The Germans were nothing if not efficient. And imitation would be the sincerest form of flattery.

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