Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 25, 2008

THE MAYBERRY MACHIAVELLI FORGETS HIS RECORD.... One of the single most important quotes about Bush's presidency came six years ago. John J. DiIulio Jr., a domestic policy advisor to George W. Bush, told Ron Suskind, ''There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.''

With DiIulio's perspective in mind, it was jaw-dropping to hear Karl Rove insist last night, on national television, that it was policy, not politics, that won out in the Bush White House.

On "Hannity & Colmes" last night, Alan Colmes noted the criticism of Rove for combining politics and policy. Rove argued, "Well, at least in the White House I was in, policy won out, but you had to be aware of the political fallout of what you were going to do in order to contain it and deal with it. You bet. But to, but first and foremost if the president I worked for, George W. Bush, said, 'You know what, let's do right, and the politics will take care of itself.' It didn't mean you were blind to it, but it didn't mean that you needed to focus first and foremost on what you thought was in the right interest of the country."

I've heard Rove say some extraordinary things over the years -- remember in June when he criticized the New York Times for having "outed a CIA agent"? -- but this might be the most ridiculous.

It's tempting to document every instance in which Rove and Bush put political considerations over the national interest, but one would need a book. OK, a book broken out over multiple volumes. Ali Frick summarized this nicely, noting, "Rove personally oversaw the unprecedented politicization of nearly every aspect of Bush's federal government, from the Justice Department to the Environmental Protection Agency to the Office of National Drug Control Policy." And that, of course, is really only scratching the surface.

DiIulio's quote makes clear that Rove's boast is without foundation in reality. DiIulio, an academic with a strong background in public policy, joined the Bush administration with an expectation that the team would, as Rove put it, pursue specific policy goals and let the politics "take care of itself." He assumed that Bush, like most modern presidents, would naturally "focus first and foremost on what you thought was in the right interest of the country."

But that's not what he found. Surrounded by "Mayberry Machiavellis," DiIulio found a West Wing filled with officials who cared about nothing but politics -- how a policy helped Republicans, rallied the base, embarrassed Democrats, raised money, moved poll numbers, aided vulnerable GOP incumbents, etc.

For Rove to claim now that "policy won out" in the Bush White House is literally laughable.

Steve Benen 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

It's nice to see that Karl wants to remain consistent to the end. It's unfortunate that he is consistent in his incompetence, mendacity, and churlishness.

Posted by: freelunch on November 25, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

And from a political standpoint, that worked out so well for the Republicans.

Posted by: gttim on November 25, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Rove's desire to win the Hispanic vote for the GOP drove much of the policy that encouraged the Housing Bubble. Rove and Bush wanted to turn Hispanics into home-owning Republicans. So, Bush spent the years 2002-2004 attacking down payments on houses as the chief barrier to his goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by 5.5 million by 2010. This sent a loud message to the real estate and mortgage industries that the Bush Administration regulators weren't going to take away the punchbowl when the party got interesting. Heck, they were going to pour some bottles of Everclear into the punchbowl.

Thus, home purchase mortgage dollars to Hispanics went up by an incredible 691% from 1999 to 2006. And everybody else, not just Hispanics, got in on the zero and very low downpayment deals too.

In turn, Wall Street built mountains of leverage on top of the pebble of probability that these dubious mortgages would be paid back. And if they weren't, surely the government would bail them out for just doing what the government wanted: facilitating the American Dream!

Posted by: Steve Sailer on November 25, 2008 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

"if the president I worked for, George W. Bush, said, 'You know what, let's do right..."

You know what's a fun thing? To watch how almost everyone on this planet, no matter what they actually are doing, seems to feel a need to justify to themselves, that they are a good, and "right"-doing individual. Almost like it's some mechanism of the human condition that no one can escape. If only we could harness that mechanism, and turn it to actual good. I'll bet we could accomplish plenty!

Posted by: m.e.b. on November 25, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

He's Rove. Everything that comes out of his mouth must be evaluated in terms of his desire to help Republicans and hurt Democrats. Occasionally he says things that are true, but it is only by coincidence.

Posted by: kidcharles on November 25, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

News flash: Karl Rove is a shameless liar.

I'm shocked, I tell you ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on November 25, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Rove has been a disaster for the GOP and they still keep him around.

Its like hiring Joe the Plumber to sell digital converters for analog televisions.

Posted by: Jet on November 25, 2008 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

He assumed that Bush, like most modern presidents, would naturally "focus first and foremost on what you thought was in the right interest of the country."

And Bush did, with Karl Rove's enthusiastic support. It's just that he thinks, Napoleon-like, that the interests of the country are identical with his own political desires. I'd bet that Rove sees absolutely no difference between politics and policy.

Posted by: RSA on November 25, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Karl's still spinning. Poor old Karl (not really), ever the politico.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on November 25, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

In other news, scientists report that clear skies often appear blue.

Posted by: tatere on November 25, 2008 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

It's inevitable. If Rove continues on Fox, sooner or later we'll see a YouTube clip of him jumping up live on the air and dancing around to put out his pants.

Posted by: ericfree on November 25, 2008 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

I think they have a room in ReThuglican National HQ where they have one of those medical/dental type chairs and a gizmo that comes down over your head to implant the chip that makes you think to did exactly the opposite of what you really did.

If not, how come so many ReThuglicans have this exact same kind of selective memory loss?

Posted by: Cal Gal on November 25, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Who said it about Lillian Hellman? Dorothy Parker maybe? But it's true about Rove, too.

Every word that comes out of his mouth is a lie, including "and" and "the."

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on November 25, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I want Roves drugs. Either that or the directions to alternate universe he lives in. Sadly he will go to his grave thinking this. Someone needs to stage an intervention.

Posted by: ET on November 25, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

When it's your policy to cement your party's dominance and divert billions in graft to your political contributors, then the politics does indeed take care of itself.

Posted by: paul on November 25, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

While it's fun to laugh at Rove here amongst ourselves, it doesn't actually accomplish much, and may even obscure a better understanding of the phenomenon we oppose.

The thing is, there's an element of truth to what Rove is saying, even though it's also true that no Administration has ever done more to politicize every aspect of the Gov't. On at least some issues (with the Iraq war the most prominent example), Bush has shown a remarkable (and arguably regrettable) inclination to stick to his chosen policy despite the political opposition and/or cost at the polls.

What's important to understand is that these two positions are not entirely irreconcilable with each other: a gov't can (and the Bush Admin certainly has) politicize every aspect of the bureaucracy in an effort to support/sustain/sell policies that would not be, if objectively evaluated, sufficiently popular to implement (e.g., Dep't of Defense issuing unrealistically favorable progress reports about the war; distorted evaluations of cost of Medicare "reforms", etc.).

Posted by: retr2327 on November 25, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's highly probable that the policy was to dismantle government as we knew it. In which case, Rove is right and they pretty much succeeded.

Posted by: xpurg8d on November 25, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Rove is the master of the big lie - his entire career is based on distorting reality - the only positive outcome of his life's work is that the Repblican Party is weaker now than it has ever been.

Posted by: Orange Refugee on November 25, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

retr2327,

So what exactly did Bush and Rove say about the policies regarding FEMA? So Katrina happened because of poor policy rather than politicising (and hiring a horse show lawyer)?

Or about actually having WMDs?
Or the iraq tie to 9/11?
Or the lack of funding for NCLB?
Or the EPA?
Or faith based initiatives?

The list is endless, the evidence overwhelming, and Karl is unconvincing.

The trouble is, his "policy" is always the pure political view. I can appreciate that Bush has stuck to his "policy", but only in the way you frame it.

But as indicated in the thread, policy in this context means driven by people looking into what works (policy wonks), not by peole driving a political view. And from that aspect, the Bush WH has politicised practically everything.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on November 25, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

>"policy won out"

He's not lying. You just have to understand how the Rove mind works.

Policy #1: What is good for the Republican party is what's good for the country.

Everything else comes from that.

Posted by: Buford on November 25, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

"I've heard Rove say some extraordinary things over the years -- remember in June when he criticized the New York Times for having "outed a CIA agent"? -- but this might be the most ridiculous."

No, sorry... the CIA agent thing was more outrageous. But this is a close second. :)

Posted by: Roq on November 25, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Karl who?

Posted by: ckelly on November 25, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

"For Rove to claim now that 'policy won out' in the Bush White House is literally laughable."

So how come I'm not laughing?

We need a few extra circles of hell for these people.

Posted by: N.Wells on November 25, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

the self-delusions are endless...somebody [lost the name, sorry] at the weekly standard today wrote about how easy obama's gonna have it in dealing with the middle east because bush did a fantastic job of improving every aspect of the various situations in that part of the world...
....

then..right uptread here is somebody called steve sailer writing about how hispanics caused the housing bubble to collapse...or somethin'

delusional.....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on November 25, 2008 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Rove = A$$hole.

Posted by: James G on November 25, 2008 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you ckelly. That's exactly where we all need to be.

Posted by: psychobroad on November 25, 2008 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why do assholes like Rove say shit that is obviously untrue?
1. It usually works.
2. He pays no tangible price for it.

Hmmmm..isn't that pretty close to the basic definition of a sociopath?

Posted by: bikelib on November 25, 2008 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't consistency ad absurdum a sign of psychological trouble?

Posted by: Bob M on November 25, 2008 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

Policy vs. politicization? Recall the guy at NASA who reported his job there was to make George Bush look good? Oh and telling scientists that the Big Bang Theory was 'just a theory'?

Posted by: Agent Orange on November 25, 2008 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised that people still don't understand Republicans or the Bush administration. Rove isn't lying, nor was Bush. Perhaps it would help if people examined the archives at whitehouse.gov, looked at Bush's daily speeches and the daily press briefings, and then compared the words with the deeds, of what the White House and the Republican controlled Congress did.

We presumed when Bush used certain words and phrases to describe himself and his policies that he meant them as we used those words and phrases. But, in truth and for many years now, high-priced Republican wordsmiths have been playing with words to create deceptive campaigns to get their policies through Congress.

Conservatives make no secret of the fact that they are out to destroy government. Conservatives don't want to have to pay taxes. How do you shut down social security and medicare when the people want social security and medicare and Democrats stand in your way? You do it indirectly by bankrupting the country and starving the programs.

Posted by: Cadbury on November 26, 2008 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Rove always projects the opposite of what really happened. He paints his enemies with his own character. Always has. From the "bugged" office to the TANG "forgeries" to Politics as policy. He is the definition of sociopath. Palin is very close. . .

Posted by: Sparko on November 26, 2008 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

One could hope Bush and his crony cabinet goes into a bunker after 1/21/09 and never comes out again, alive. They have ruined this country for the next 20 years.

Posted by: rememberNovember on November 26, 2008 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Royaltom_blue:

You say "policy in this context means driven by people looking into what works (policy wonks), not by peole driving a political view." If you're going to define policy as looking into what works, then you're not going to find any policies at all in Bush land, because they don't seem to give a damn what works. That's kind of why the opposition calls itself the "reality-based community." But I think most people define policy as being the goals and programs put into place by the gov't. And by that definition, Bushco did have certain policies that they cared about (effect on the polls, the country, and even, to some extent, the Republican party) be damned. At the same time, they absolutely politicized (i.e., used poll and election driven concerns to shape output) level positions to an unprecedented degree

Posted by: retr2327 on November 26, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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