April 1, 2007

Dowd Bails On Bush

I have met Matthew Dowd, Bush's chief electoral strategist, on two occasions. The first time we met came at the Republican National Convention, when he briefed the bloggers on the first day, talking about campaign strategies and how the GOP would eventually prevail over John Kerry. After that, we met briefly during the Alito hearings, when the Senate Republican Caucus invited bloggers to cover that from within the Hart building. He has always struck me as a straight shooter and a reasonable man, someone whose loyalty to the Bush administration rested on rational rather than emotional bases.

For that reason, the New York Times article on his disaffection both surprised and disappointed me (via TMV):

A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.

Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.”

The man whom I believed so rational turns out to have run on emotion. He talks about how he "fell in love" and then got disappointed when Bush as President didn't meet his emotional needs. A large part of his dissatisfaction came from the Iraq War, which he had no trouble backing until his son went off to it, and from Bush's refusal to see Cindy Sheehan, even though Bush met with her once before and she had used that to start a tour of radical-left speeches around the country. Dowd also felt betrayed because Bush had not acted like the uniter he was when he governed in Texas.

As much as I like Dowd, and he is a very likable man in person ... boo hoo. I can't believe this Dowd is a grown-up. I think there are plenty of issues on which one can disagree with the Bush administration, but don't blame the Bush administration for sticking to policies that one has spent most of his term supporting. Bush hasn't changed direction during his terms in office, and as close as Dowd was to Bush, it's not like he didn't understand who Bush is.

So Bush didn't act as a uniter. Neither did the Democrats, who spent most of the first term calling Bush the "Commander-in-Thief", constantly undermining his authority. Bush, one should recall, tried reaching across the aisle on legislation like No Child Left Behind and expanded discretionary spending on a wide scale, attempting to find common ground with the Democrats. Bush used the same intelligence that Democrats had used for years to call Saddam Hussein and Iraq a threat to our national security and both sides using that intel, developed mainly by the Clinton administration and other Western agencies, to authorize the war. When it turned out to be faulty on WMD, Democrats wasted no time calling Bush a liar who misled them into war, despite their own rhetoric on WMD going back to 1998.

Under those circumstances, no one could act as a uniter, and Dowd should understand that more than anyone.

“That it’s not the same, it’s not the person I thought.” Perhaps, but not meeting with Cindy Sheehan -- the event which produced this lament -- has to be the lamest reason for coming to that conclusion. Bush had already met with Sheehan, a point that Dowd never manages to mention in this interview. She came to Crawford seeking attention and credibility as an anti-war activist. Bush wasn't obligated to give it to her, and subsequent events bore him out. Shortly afterwards, John McCain met with Sheehan in an attempt to tweak the White House, and Sheehan returned the hospitality by pronouncing him a "warmonger" in a press conference immediately afterwards. After that, she began her political love affair with Hugo Chavez.

Did Dowd seriously believe that Bush should have enabled that kind of nuttiness? If so, he's not as smart as I thought.

The Times article has more, including Dowd's disappointment that Bush didn't fire Rumsfeld in January 2004 after Abu Ghraib. Plenty of people thought Rumsfeld should have stepped down then, but can come up with no rational reason. The Army had already begun its investigation into the incident long before Time Magazine reported it, and had started the disciplinary process. Rumsfeld didn't order the torture, and the unit commanders who allowed the slack discipline that created the problem got cashiered. George Marshall didn't step down during World War II when American war crimes came to light, and for good reason: he didn't authorize them and had no reason to quit over them. The perpetrators got their just punishments, and the war continued under his management.

Dowd engages in one long, petulant rant, consumed by his disappointment at Bush's failure to change when Dowd changed. I'm sorry for Dowd's disappointment, but this says much more about Dowd's emotionalism than it does about the Bush administration.

Dafydd ab Hugh has more thoughts.


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» Ex-Bush Aide Dowd Says He “Misplaced” Faith In Bush (UPDATED) from The Moderate Voice
Note: This was put up under the wrong byline. Since it’s already on the web we’ll leave it and put the byline under this. By Joe Gandelman You know a Presidency is in trouble with former — and trusted — aides begin to break pro... [Read More]

» Matthew Dowd from Sensible Mom
Dowd clings to whatever person he thinks will make politics nice. So rather than having a core set of beliefs he'll shift his alliance to whomever he thinks is a uniter. [Read More]

» Matthew Dowd from Sensible Mom
Dowd clings to whatever person he thinks will make politics nice. So rather than having a core set of beliefs he'll shift his allegiance to whomever he thinks is a uniter. [Read More]

» SUN APR 1 PLAY BALL! from The Pink Flamingo


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Comments (17)

Posted by Woody [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 8:32 AM

Follow the money...

Follow the power...


Posted by sam pender [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 8:45 AM

"He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides."

It takes two to tango. There are Americans who are Democrats, and many of them-tens of millions, are more inclined to believe what Democratic Party leaders tell them than a President who they didn't vote for. W could have tried and cried and begged and pleaded for their support, but it would never come. If the nation was divided 50/50 in 2000, and almost 50/50 in 2004, then doesn't it stand to reason that W really only had a good chance at being the primary leader for half the nation? Democrats bear responsibility for maintaining and feeding the divide. After 911, even Democrat Americans were following W, and Democratic Party leaders would have none of that, so rather than support their members in following the President on a matter of national security, they pulled their members away. In doing so they pulled away many centrists as well.

Naw, it's the classic blame vs cause. Yes W gets the blame for he has the eggs on the brim of his hat, but he isn't the cause of a nation divided.

Posted by Stormy70 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 9:02 AM

Someone has a book to sell.

Posted by Cybrludite [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 9:08 AM

Sounds like he's channeling Andrew Sullivan to me.

Posted by Jeanette [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 9:11 AM

We must remember he was a democrat and probably always was in his heart. Democrats/Liberals tend to go with feelings rather than logic.

To tattle on the president before he has left office, to me is despicable, when done by someone who claims to like him personally.

I wish for the old days when we could disagree about politics but do it in such a way we weren't calling for impeachment or the deaths of politicians on the other side of the aisle.

President Bush did try to be a uniter, but he found out all too quickly the atmosphere in Washington is much different from the political atmosphere in Austin.

Posted by pilsener [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 9:30 AM

What the Captain sees as honest emotionalism, I see as cynical, economic pragmatism.

I think Stormy70 is right about a book sale, but I also suspect that Dowd wants to move back to being a Democrat political advisor. This interview is his calculated way of renouncing Republicans and offering his services to Democrats.

Posted by Susan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 10:31 AM

Isn't this guy related to that elderly schoolgirl MoDo? I agree with jeannette about the feelings part.

Posted by gull [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 10:33 AM

Hummmm .... two reactions.

1) I'm wondering if this man is not transferring his "emotionalism" from a) the recent loss of a child and b) his divorce to dissatisfaction with his current (and future) employment status.

2) It's easy to make excuses and set yourself up for possible book contract -- especially when the political market is not too accepting of a speech writer/advisor who kisses and tells ....

Posted by reddog [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 11:08 AM

When Bush went to war, the vast majority of Americans supported him, including the MSM. Tim Russert and Chris Matthews could not simper his praises frequently enough. During the "Mission Accomplished" speech, Chris embarrassed himself gushing over Bush's manly, fighter jock bearing.

Bush won the war, the peace has been his to lose and he has. Few support him at this point and those that do have grave reservations, whether they utter them publicly or not.

As far as Cindy Sheehan goes, she has been Bush's best friend. She has built a coalition of wackos and fringees that are repugnant to most Americans. It is due to her efforts that the antiwar movement is stillborn.

Mainstream Democratic politicans, have not actively opposed the war but sniped at Bush from the sidelines, always giving him enough rope to hang himself. He has not dissapointed them yet. The fondest hope of the cowardly Democratic politican scum is that the war can be drawn out for 2 more years, when they will sweep the elections on the back of the electorate's revulsion. The few politicans that have been against the war from the beginning and want immediate withdrawl are ignored and ostracized.

The American incursion into the Middle East following 9/11 has been the most ill advised, poorly concieved, craven and cowardly episode in the annuls of American armed conflict.

One can only hope that following their term of office Bush and Cheney move to Dubai, wherethey can be closer to their Saudi masters. They are truly men without a country.

This issue is destroying America in a way Vietnam never did.

Posted by sam pender [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 11:47 AM

"This issue is destroying America in a way Vietnam never did."


same ole rhetoric.

Posted by reddog [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 11:59 AM

During the French Revolution, it was noted among freshly decapitated heads. They would yawn and the light would go out of their eyes.

same ole same ole

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 2:46 PM

"This issue is destroying America in a way Vietnam never did."

BS! No "issue" ever destroyed anything by itself, only the people who chose to pick the "issue" up and abuse it can do that. You made that choice, now live with it!

Judas Lives!

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 4:23 PM

He's right, this issue is destroying America -- but he's wrong in saying it's done in a way different from that of Vietnam.

When was the first "F*** the troops" sign done in the Vietnam War? Why were veterans spit upon when they returned from that war? Who was responsible for sundering America back then? To point fingers at the true originator of the Vietnam conflict would be to point fingers at John F. Kennedy, the golden boy of the Democrats, and LBJ who never had the courage to invade the North and bring the war to them rather than having them bring the war to us...

To point fingers at the start of the Iraqi war would be to point fingers at Jimmy Carter (whose tepid response to the Iranian Embassy occupation led to today's situation), and Billy Clinton, who thought that a few cruise missiles could substitute for feet on the ground. [How's that for a cool Democrat-like response, which completely ignores Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and threatening posture toward Saudi Arabia].

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 4:41 PM

Well alrighty then, the only thing the rightwingers attack more rabidly than a democrat, is when one of their own jumps ship. Wow, you people bring out the longknives. In case you haven't noticed the only people standing behind W these days are Laura and Barney. And I think Barney might be on the fence. My grandfather always said " you reap what you sow" Mr. Bush the chickens are coming home to roost. Even giving that ole Texas boy the benefit of the doubt, he is a failure, plain and simple.

Posted by commander0 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 6:46 PM

Dowd is certainly entitled to his benighted rant. Fine, yet another waffler. Who cares. Ignored in this is that the NYTimes chose to format this as NEWS and put it on the front page as opposed to inviting Mr Dowd to write his op- ed piece and then present it where it belonged. In the opinion section. Yet another in a long line of journalistic dishonesty by the most fabulously self destructive newspaper in the history of the planet. It wobbles the mind how they have become such weakly incompetent hacks in such a short time.

Posted by guinsPen [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 6:47 PM

You missed a couple of cliches, con dem.

Better luck next time.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 1, 2007 9:20 PM

I can't believe their are still idiots out there who claim Viet Nam was good. This war becomes more and more like it each and every day. We are fighting this war the same way we fought and lost Viet Nam ... observing country borders and not going where the enemy is. If we are really fighting the war of our lifetime we should have sent in 500,000 troops from the start, rationed oil, started up the draft ... and asked a lot more out of the citizens of the US instead of scaring them to death with alerts (well those that the GOP used only around election time in 2004 anyway) and asking them to sacrifice and asking corporations who are getting rich on this war's back to step forward and commit resources to the effort.

I laugh when the right wing wackos claim it the the liberals and dems hurting this war effort, bullshit, it's the everyday normal American who worries about paying 3.00 for his SUV and has not sacrificed, or has been called on to sacrifice, by this lame president.