August 13, 2002
Paranoia may destroy ya

I've tried to find a reason to praise Dick Armey for his recent apostasy on Republican red-meat issues. Really I have. I just can't quite bring myself to do it.

It's not that I'm unhappy with what Armey has done. It's just that I don't trust his motives. I just can't believe that after all these years of championing the GOP that he suddenly feels free to speak up and say that maybe there are a few things that his buddies are wrong about, especially as they head into a midterm election with their fragile House majority in jeopardy. The timing is all wrong. We all know how tightly the White House controls leaks and how much Bush values loyalty. Am I expected to believe that they'd let a top Republican and fellow Texan undercut the President less than three months out from an election that will largely determine the success of his agenda and possibly his re-election without at least giving him a talking-to?

I'd like to believe that Armey's adherences to the principles of limited government led to his decision to help kill the TIPS program. Were it not for his track record in redistributing income to GOP districts, not to mention his sense of entitlement in doing so, I just might. I'd like to believe that his opposition to invading Iraq and support for ending the trade embargo to Cuba are based on principles that can finally see the light of day now that he's no longer bound by the need to be re-elected, but I can't. I'm seeing a pattern in Armey's recent behavior, but it's not the pattern of behavior normally attributable to one who is finally free to shake the shackles of orthodoxy.

What I see is a plot by Karl Rove to provide some ass cover for Dubya. Think about it. Everyone knows TIPS was a loser. How can Bush back away from it without giving the Democrats a victory or a campaign issue? Simple: Get a trusted lieutenant who isn't running for re-election to kill it for him. Suppose there are enough issues (logistical or otherwise) regarding the invasion of Iraq that it needs to be delayed or - heaven forfend - scrapped. It'd be awfully nice if a prominent conservative or two expressed doubts beforehand so that should Bush have to change his tune he can cite such people as helping him to see things from a different perspective. How can we change direction on the Cuban trade embargo and not endanger Jeb's re-election? You see where I'm going.

I freely admit that I find Dick Armey to be reprehensible and small-minded. I believe that today, as was the case before these odd public pronouncements, that Armey's only rock solid principle was "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for the GOP". I'm very much not impartial here, and my antipathy to this man may well be taking me way past the point of healthy cynicism and into the land of the Tinfoil Hat People. My alternate explanation here may be ridiculous and perhaps even insulting, but I firmly believe that it's at least possible.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one thinking conspiratorily today. Check out Arthur Stock's comment on Matt Yglesias's blog for a dandy.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 13, 2002 to National news

All I can say is that you have a far higher opinion of GOP cohesiveness and media savvy than I do....

Posted by: Josh on August 13, 2002 12:08 PM

Thanks for the plug! I'm making paranoid explanations a specialty.

On today's topic, the paranoid explanation is that Dick Armey is through carrying water for the Republican Party, and is about to enter a new career as a lobbyist, where he will become very wealthy. I don't know who his clients will be, but he probably does. Odds are, the positions he's taking now somehow are in someone's interest, and that someone is about to hire him--with a substantial bonus for his early start.

Posted by: Arthur Stock on August 13, 2002 8:01 PM

The fact that Armey made his little speech after the Congress adjourned to go campaign supports your theory that this was an orchestrated move to cover Bush as well as Armey's Republican colleagues on their re-election campaigns. Add to this that Bush mentioned in a speech that diplomacy was still an option, and he used the word "diplomacy", the Novak article, and the soft cuddly treatment Armey got from the White House and you might be seeing something of a climb-down.

Posted by: Eric M on August 14, 2002 10:59 AM