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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Election Jitters -- Or Inter-Administration Sniping by Proxy?

ThinkProgress made a great catch from this morning's Fox News Sunday, and I wanted to take a moment this morning to talk about the potential implications of Bill Kristol's pronouncement of the Bush Administration as incompetent.

Here's Kristol's quote:
I think it’s become in people’s minds an emblem of the administration that just isn’t as serious about the competent execution of the functions of government as it should be. And even — I’m struck talking to conservatives and Republicans — they agree with the president on basic political philosophy, the they agree with his basic policy agenda, but they are worried that they just don’t seem to be able to execute as well as they should be. (emphasis mine)
That Kristol was saying this on Fox this morning is telling of a couple of things: the Republican party establishment is now worried that President Bush has become a drag on the entire party, and that he poses a serious problem for them in the upcoming mid-term elections in the Fall; and that someone has sanctioned Kristol talking about this on air on Fox.

Which leads me to a whole host of questions:

-- Is this evidence that Dick Cheney is not going quietly into the night but, instead, is using Kristol as pushback by proxy against Rove's attempt to throw him under the bus as an Administration sacrifice to the possibility of better poll numbers via a new VP nomination? As close as Kristol has been with Cheney's neocon cabal, it's certainly possible. But Cheney's power is at a low ebb at the moment, and I have to wonder if Kristol -- who has been opportunist in the past -- would stick his neck out for Cheney against Rove, without some reasonable expectation that Cheney had an ace up his sleeve. (Or that, perhaps, Rove might be looking more closely at an indictment than we've publicly heard. Or something to that effect.)

-- Is this some Rovian machination to distance the President from Congress and the Republican party while his popularity is so far down, in an effort to salvage every vote they can for the mid-terms to try to maintain the Republican strangle-hold on Congress? And, if so, wonder what the President thinks of Turdblossom having a surrogate call him incompetent on Faux News as a political ploy? Ego versus tactics -- wonder which one wins out in Bush's mind?

-- Is this Kristol expressing fears of members of Congress and the Republican party, rather than having anything to do with the Administration? Are members of Congress and old guard Republicans -- including the money that backs the party's machine -- ready to throw Bushie under the bus? In other words, has he gone from lame duck status straight to political road kill?

-- Is Kristol just not getting the Administration love any longer, and he's decided to take it out on them by smacking them around while the President is out of town? I mean, really, everyone else is smacking him around these days, why shouldn't Kristol get in a swipe to build up his "honest broker" credentials (**cough**)...after all, there's another election coming up and Kristol needs to keep that pundit gig.

-- Is this another salvo of the Team McCain in 2008 campaign?

Judd makes a great point in his post:
Kristol is right, and it’s a dynamic that makes policy debates almost irrelevant. Even if the administration were to stumble onto a policy that would improve things, it’s highly unlikely the people in charge would be able to execute the policy effectively.
Maybe the Katrina video is resonating in the internal Republican polling numbers more than we thought. In any case, whatever the answers to these questions, it's stacking up to be an interesting week.