Sunday, March 26, 2006

Abandon Ship?

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard thinks President Bush should more or less fire his entire Cabinet, including Vice President Cheney, in order to "refresh" his Administration for its final run and lay the groundwork for a successor through Big Time's replacement. Highlights:

The President's most spectacular move would be to anoint a presidential successor. This would require Vice President Cheney to resign. His replacement? Condoleezza Rice, whom Mr. Bush regards highly. Her replacement? Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, whose Bush-like views on Iraq and the war on terror have made him a pariah in the Democratic caucus.

Mr. Cheney would probably be happy to step down and return to Wyoming. But it would make more sense for him to move to the Pentagon to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, a job Mr. Cheney held during the elder Bush's administration. The Senate confirmation hearing for Mr. Cheney alone would produce political fireworks and attract incredible attention. At Treasury, Mr. Bush has a perfect replacement for John Snow, someone he already knows. That's Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of Mr. Bush's council of economic advisers and currently dean of Columbia's business school. He is in sync with Mr. Bush ideologically and has the added value of being respected on Wall Street.

This sort of column is the political equivalent of fantasy football leagues, or "hot stove-ism" in baseball. It reveals far more about Barnes' skittishness than it does the political condition of the Bush Administration.

Also Barnes' judgment. The Beltway rumor mill has been trying to shove Cheney out the door for years. Yet there he remains, and he's reiterated time and again that he's going to stay right where he is. That Barnes tosses out Condi Rice's name as a replacement tells me he's been hanging out with Dick Morris too much.

Joe Lieberman accepting an offer to replace Rice at State is an even bigger yowler. How many times has Lieberman been asked about switching parties since he became a pro-war dissident within his party? Joining the President's Cabinet wouldn't require that, but after signing up with the "enemy," he'd probably be summarily expelled as a Democrat anyway.

But Cheney pulling a second tour of duty at Defense is the biggest pipedream of all. Can you imagine the Senate confirmation hearings? Hell's bells, the Donks hate Cheney as much as they do his boss, and one of the biggest reasons why is his supposed "secretiveness" and "seclusion." Does Barnes seriously think that Armed Services Committee Dems wouldn't turn the hearings into gladitorial bloodsport? Or that they wouldn't hesitate to filibuster Cheney's nomination and score the orgasmic trifecta of humiliating Bush and ridding themselves of Cheney and Rumsfeld all in one swift, efficient blow to the White House groin? And Barnes thinks that Harriet Miers and the Dubai Ports World fiasco were self-inflicted wounds?

But then you don't need to know the details of his hypothetical wheeling & dealing to see this for the foolishness it is. Just pluck one sentence from his second paragraph:

...rejuvenation of [Bush's] presidency by shocking the media and political community...

Several problems:

(1) Reshuffling the deck chairs wouldn't change the political community's view of the President.

(2) Just finish the metaphor to see the perception it would create.

(3) The media is - how should I say this? - irrelevant. It doesn't matter what the press thinks because the press doesn't have a monopoly on the dissemination of public information anymore. Media democratization through talk radio and the blogosphere has evaporated that once-predominant influence. The public thinks far more for itself and is far more skeptical of what comes out of their morning papers and TV screens these days, as evinced by the concurrent upturn in GOP political fortunes.

(4) The Bush loyalty factor. He has his people, and they're...well, his people. He has them each where he wants them, doing what he wants them to do. It isn't his style to reshuffle his staff, much less to toss people overboard because his enemies have dubbed them as "liabilities." When has Dubya ever given a rat's ass what the Beltway crowd thinks about anything anyway? And hasn't just about every prominant instance of dismissal just produced a fresh Bush enemy the Extreme Media was able to gleefully exploit (i.e. Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, George Tenet)?

There's only one thing about Barnes' recommendations to the President that does make sense: he wants GDub to "shock the media and political community" because Barnes is part of that community and therefore wants to "write stories about new officials, cover confirmation hearings, show up at press conferences [he] might have ignored, assess new policies." He's bored. He pines for something new. And 2008 is a looooong way away.

But you wanna see the punchline? Barnes himself provides it:

In truth, there would be a large element of smoke and mirrors in his actions. The trade-off is that Mr. Bush might revitalize his presidency. [emphasis added]

Or, more likely, sound its death knell.

Have two more incompatible sentences ever been combined in the same paragraph?

[HT: Sister Toldjah]