May 13, 2004
Win now, lose later?

Buried in this article on cracks in GOP discipline regarding Iraq is this bit of strategizing:

But talk to some House staffers who are privy to the thoughts and concerns of their congressmen and sometimes surprising expressions of anger and frustration come forth.

These so far fall into two categories: The first is that the czar, in this case the president, is still wise and good and just, and that it is his pesky advisors who are to blame. A remarkable amount of anger appears to be spreading in GOP House staff circles against Rumsfeld and the supposedly brilliant group of neoconservative intellectuals around him, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith -- those who pushed the conquest and occupation of Iraq so remorselessly yet now appear to have not the slightest clue what to do next.

The second reaction is found less commonly among House staffers but is even more remarkable. That is the expressed belief of Republican conservatives that to retain the power that really matters (their majority in the House, with continuing control over its committees and fiscal powers), they may have to sacrifice the power that they regard as more superficial and transient: Bush's holding on to the White House.

According to this line of thought (and I have been unable to ascertain from staffers how many Republican congressmen hold such a view), Bush, Rumsfeld and their hawks have already made such a mess out of Iraq that the next president, be it Bush or John Kerry, is certain to be on a hiding to nothing as he struggles with the war's consequences next year. Indeed, it is inevitable that there will be a massive popular backlash against the sitting president, Republican or Democrat, come the midterm elections of 2006. Far better, therefore, that Kerry win in November and still be hemmed in on the domestic front by a Republican House majority that is then free of the albatross of Iraq. If Bush wins in November, according to this belief, there is a very real danger that after 12 years the GOP will lose the jewel in its crown -- control of the House -- in 2006.

While the prospect of throwing the Presidential election in order to solidify a hold on the House is a bit fantastic, I do agree that there will be a great danger of backlash against the President's party in 2006 thanks to the monumental and systemic screwups that will have to be undone. Of course, it would be bad form of the Democrats to blame their troubles on the previous occupant of the White House, wouldn't it? Bad manners, really. What kind of craven cowards blame all their problems on someone who's no longer in power, right?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 13, 2004 to The making of the President | TrackBack

The notion of the GOP's pushing the blame for the sorry state we're in onto a President John Kerry, as a means of keeping GOP control over a longer period of time after 2008, is not wholly new; I've run into it a couple of times before. I find it implausible. Many of these neocon geniuses seem unable to think twelve weeks or twelve months ahead, let alone twelve years. No, Karl Rove will go for the short-term solution whenever one is available. Electing Bush (or stealing another election) is one of those short-term solutions.

Posted by: Steve Bates on May 13, 2004 12:08 PM

It's not clear that a popular backlash is guaranteed in 2006. If Kerry were to take the white house and capture OBL, and reach a detent in Iraq, there is a real chance that the Democrats will have a bloody shirt to wave for the next 30 years.

I'm entirely serious.

Posted by: niq on May 13, 2004 12:22 PM

It makes me shudder to hear all this talk about how it might be better for Bush to win so the Dems will control the Hill one day. Think about Supreme Court nominations (Bush would probably nominate Scalia for Chief Justice if/when Rehnquist retires). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. It causes me to grind my teeth relentlessly. I don't even want to think about 4 more years of Bush.

Posted by: Alan W on May 13, 2004 12:24 PM

Anonymous house staffers say lots of silly things, but few are more silly than the idea that you give up the power, prestige, and bully pulpit of the Presidency for the House. That circumstance went SO well for them after Newt Gingrich was Speaker. The only person who would say differently is a nitwit, which must be the people Salon talked to (nitwits seek out nitwits?).

Kerry keeps pushing for more troops for Iraq and MORE nationbuilding. How is that going to free anyone of the albatross of Iraq? Congress will have to vote approval of it, so if it's an albatross then (and I don't think it will be), it will still be their albatross. So, again, these anon staffers are just nitwits.

Finally, the same "neocons" (what a meaningless term that's become) cited by the article have pushed pretty hard for an earlier handover of sovereignty than "realists" like Colin Powell and many Democrats thought possible or prudent. So now, those same neocons get blamed because we haven't gotten out sooner? Err, okay, but maybe shoot a little blame for that towards Powell and Armitage, and maybe realize that if Kosovo is any example, a potential Dem Prez in 2004 probably is not going to have us out of Iraq all that soon. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on May 13, 2004 12:40 PM

Typo, 2005, not 2004 -- you know what I meant. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on May 13, 2004 12:41 PM

Charles, I rarely agree with what you have to say, but I got a hearty laugh out of your last comment regarding "blaming the previous occupant of the White House".

I wouldn't go so far as to call it cowardice, but it is definitely a huge political miscalculation, that is futher perpetuated by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc.

Step up to the plate boys. Take charge of the here and now! Americans don't even have the attention span to remember if Bill Clinton really was the first black president, and they certainly aren't going to remember certain policy initiatives.

But its not outside the realm of possibility that 2006 could be a bad year for Congressional Republicans. Anybody who's ever had a political science course knows that a non-presidential-year election is always bad for the majority party.

Posted by: Chris on May 13, 2004 3:22 PM

I want Iraq to pay us in oil now for monies spent and all the pain and suffering we may have other wars to fight but how can you do that if your broke .

Posted by: steve on August 24, 2005 10:50 PM