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
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
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.