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Card's Trick
June 15, 2002
By Richard Prasad

Andrew Card gave an interview to Esquire magazine recently, lamenting the imminent departure of White House aide Karen Hughes, and also fretting over the increased power of conservative guru Karl Rove. Reporters and pundits alike were shocked by the candor of the interview, but was this interview truly candid, or just more Bush administration spin-doctoring to appeal to seemingly disaffected conservatives?

In the July issue of Esquire, in an article called "Mrs. Hughes Takes Her Leave" Card is quoted as saying "Listen, the President is in a state of denial about Karen's leaving, so is Mrs. Bush, and so is Karen herself." In another quote, Card says, "The whole balance of the place, the balance that has worked up to now, is gone simply gone." The point is clear, that the President has two major advisors that he brought with him from Texas, Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, and Karen Hughes was the more liberal of the two and Rove the more conservative - but how conservative has the Bush administration been?

Let's take a look.

Just after September 11th, Republicans in the House of Representatives tried to pass an airline security bill without federalizing airport security workers. This proposal was met with loud disapproval by both the public and Senate Democrats, who insisted that airport security had to be federalized. The Bush administration caved, and signed the bill even thought it contained a provision that federalized airport security, much to the chagrin of conservative Republicans. In that same time frame, Bush created a new office - the office of Homeland Security - and appointed former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge at its head. Big government solutions from a conservative like Bush? Gasp!

Well, the fights started almost immediately between the Bush administration and the Senate over the office of Homeland Security, most notable was Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Why wouldn't Ridge testify to Congress about what the office was doing to protect the homeland? The Bush administration's response was that Ridge was a presidential advisor and not a cabinet secretary and therefore not subject to Congressional questioning. The real reason is that the Bush administration did not want to make Homeland Security a cabinet post, because doing so would ensure Congressional oversight and scrutiny.

But the news on the terror fighting front was not been good for Bush. Daily, there were revelations that both the FBI and CIA had missed clues that if put together, might have averted the September 11th scenario from ever taking place. The Senate Intelligence Committee opened up hearings on what the administration really did know about events prior to September 11th. Something had to be done to stem the tide of embarrassing revelations.

Something was done. Out of the blue, Bush announced he was going to speak to the country on Thursday, June 6th. In an 11 minute address Bush announced a major reorganization of the government, including the creation of a cabinet level position for Homeland Security.

Under the plan, not only would Homeland Security be a cabinet level position, with an initial budget of $37.5 billion, but the INS, Customs Service, Secret Service, and the Coast Guard would also all be under a newly formed department of Homeland Security. Gone were the cries from conservatives of ending swollen government bureaucracy, they embraced the new department with open arms.

It seems that when Democrats, namely Joe Lieberman, were calling for similar ideas, the Republicans dismissed them ideas as creeping socialism, but when President Bush proposes these same ideas, they are the best thing since sliced bread. Hypocrisy, thy name is Trent Lott.

The author of the new Homeland Security proposal was none other than Andrew Card, who along with Tom Ridge, Mitch Daniels and Alberto Gonzalez, formed the nucleus of the plan's originators, according to a June 9th Washington Post article. The proposal was put together quickly, according to a June 7th New York Times article, which quotes several Republican lawmakers as being "irritated" at not being briefed in advance. The rush job put on this proposal indicates that at least part of the plan was aimed at deflecting mounting criticism of the administration's FBI and CIA.

The speed at which the proposal was put together also led to some glaring omissions, namely the CIA and FBI were not included in the new Office of Homeland Security. Therefore the same intelligence information lapses that happened pre-9/11 will happen post-9/11, and when the information sharing lapses continue, the new Homeland Security department can plead ignorance and say they were out of the loop.

All that being said, it was Card that moved the Bush administration to the center on this issue. Will he continue to do this? Does he need to continue to do this? The argument is that Karl Rove is a conservative ideologue, and that someone needs to counterbalance his rampant conservatism. The evidence simply does not prove that to be the case.

On issue after issue, education without vouchers, airport security, campaign finance reform, stem cell research, even the bombing of Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, and most recently with Homeland Security, President Bush has sold his conservative pals down the river, and he has not as yet paid a political price for it. Why has Rove allowed Bush to compromise on so many issues? Because Rove is not a political ideologue, as Card states - Rove is a political pragmatist. He knows that huge majorities are in favor of all the policies mentioned above, and if Bush came out against these policies, he might have a few conservative friends, but his approval ratings would be in the mid-50s by now or worse.

Paul Krugman agrees with this point of view. In an op-ed piece he wrote for the New York Times called "The Rove Doctrine" Krugman argues that Rove's motives are not conservative at all. "For the most distinctive feature of Mr. Rove's modus operandi is not his conservatism; it's his view that the administration should do whatever gives it a political advantage. This includes, of course, exploiting the war on terrorism - something Mr. Rove has actually boasted about. But it also includes coddling special interests."

Krugman argues that while Bill Clinton was consistently a free trader, sometimes to his political detriment, George W. Bush has slapped tariffs on steel and lumber, mostly for political expediency. And who has been behind this political expediency? Karl Rove.

So why would Andrew Card give such an interview to Esquire magazine? This was an exercise in disinformation. Card identified Rove as a conservative to placate right-wingers - look, a conservative has W's ear. A lot of recent criticism of Bush has been coming from conservatives. Democrats, to quote Michael Moore, have been "DOA" on criticizing Bush. So Card simply put the word out that, yes indeed, the conservatives are in control - when in reality, the only thing George W. Bush values is being reelected.

So beware of those so called candid interviews. Such candor is a Trojan Horse, with the real surprise to be read between the lines of what is actually being said. Card pulled off another masterful bit of spin, and he is just one of many spin doctors inside the current White House.

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