Thursday, August 23, 2007

Signs of a Sinking Ship: More Republicans Flee for the Exits Ahead of '08 Election

Rove, Hastert, Pryce and Snow Step Down as Party Faces Mounting Prospect of Electoral Catastrophe if Iraq War is Still Dragging On During '08 Convention -- More GOP Bigwigs at White House and on Capitol Hill Also Likely to Quit Soon

Karl Rove talks about his resignation as President Bush's chief political strategist during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" in Washington. The former White House deputy chief of staff isn't the only Republican calling it quits, as several others have announced in the past 10 days that they, too are stepping down -- and more could follow suit, as the GOP faces a mounting likelihood of an electoral catastrophe next November. (Photo Courtesy Fox News via Reuters)

By Skeeter Sanders

You know that time is running out for President Bush and Vice President Cheney when, one by one, officials of their lame-duck -- and increasingly unpopular -- regime begin to tender their resignations.

Some saw it coming long ago, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who chose back in 2004 not to serve in a second Bush term. Others were forced out, such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose tenure became untenable after the Democrats captured control of Congress in last November's election.

But what began as a trickle now appears to be on the brink of becoming a flood. A rash of resignations on both Capitol Hill and among President Bush’s senior staff in recent days has led to growing impressions that Republicans are fleeing for the exits before they suffer a massive electoral catastrophe next year.

The exodus includes three of the party’s four top leaders in the House, who announced that they would not seek re-election, and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow -- who stunned Washington on Sunday when he announced that he, too, was stepping down.

The resignations come on the heels of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove's decision to quit. The president's chief political strategist will step down on August 31.

'I've Got to Go,' Departing White House Spokesman Says

In an interview Sunday with Hugh Hewitt, a conservative Washington radio talk-show host, Snow not only announced his own resignation as White House press secretary, but he also mentioned that there are “probably a couple” of other high-level White House resignations “coming up in the next month or so.”

Snow refused to say who was likely to quit next, but he cited financial reasons for his own departure. "I’ve told people when my money runs out, then I’ve got to go," he said.

On Capitol Hill, the core of the Republicans’ House leadership is leaving. Last week, Dennis Hastert, who lost his job as House Speaker when the Democrats regained control of the chamber last November, announced that he would not stand for re-election.

So did Deborah Pryce, another member of the House leadership. She leaves vacant her Ohio seat, considered a bellwether and one of the most vulnerable. Other House Republicans are likely to follow suit.

The electoral map also appears daunting for Senate Republicans: Of the 31 Senate seats that will be contested in 2008, 19 are held by Republicans. At least five incumbent GOP senators are considered vulnerable.

Mounting GOP Fears of a Democratic Landslide as Iraq Quagmire Continues

The growing exodus has intensified Republican fears that as the Bush presidency appears to sink deeper and deeper into the Vietnam-like quagmire that is the Iraq war, the Grand Old Party faces utter disaster at the polls a year from November: Further losses in the House and Senate, a Democratic victory in the presidential race.

Indeed, the Republican losses in 2008 could rival the party's near-wipeout in the post-Watergate midterm elections in 1974 -- possibly even the Lyndon B. Johnson landslide of 1964 -- if the unpopular Iraq war is still dragging on by the time of the GOP convention in Minneapolis a year from next month.

Worse still: A bitter power struggle between moderates and conservatives for control of the party of Lincoln after the carnage, much like the Democrats' bloodletting after Michael Dukakis lost to the elder George Bush in the 1988 election.

Although it's still much too premature to say with absolute confidence at this early stage of the campaign that a Democratic White House victory is a sure thing, there's no denying that by almost every measure, the Republicans are in deep trouble.

Bush Job Ratings Remain Stuck in the 30s; Iraq War More Unpopular Than Ever

A recent poll conducted by Zogby International for Reuters show the president's job-approval rating at a dismal 32 percent; it has remained stuck in the 30s since last October. A separate Zogby survey conducted for United Press International finds the Iraq War more unpopular than ever, with 60 percent of Americans disapproving of Bush's ability as commander-in-chief.

Other polls show that compared with 2002, when Americans were split almost evenly into once-third each between Democrats, Republicans and independents, only 25 percent of voters today call themselves Republicans, compared to 50 percent who say they are Democrats and 20 percent who declare themselves independents.

Even more ominous for the GOP: Nearly two-thirds of independents say they're likely to vote for the Democrats, the polls show.

Support for the GOP among young people fell dramatically. At the end of the Reagan presidency in 1989, nearly 40 percent of young people -- those aged 18 to 25 -- declared themselves Republicans. Today, only 25 percent do so.

A newly-released Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted for CNN found that almost two-thirds of Americans -- 64 percent -- now oppose the Iraq war, and 72 percent say the upcoming Iraq progress report by General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander, will have no effect on their opinion.

The poll also found a great deal of skepticism about the report; 53 percent said they do not trust Petraeus to give an accurate assessment of the situation in Iraq. the general is scheduled to deliver his report to Congress on September 15.

Democrats Walking a Tightrope on Iraq War, Too. . .

Democrats, however, are also taking a beating over the war, with confidence in Congress significantly worse that of the president, according to Zogby. Only three percent give Congress positive marks for how it has handled the war. This lack of confidence in Congress cuts across all ideologies.

Anti-war liberal Democratic voters in particular -- angry at their party's failure to end the war -- expressed overwhelming displeasure with how both parties in Congress have handled it, with a whopping 94 percent of liberals giving Congress a failing grade.

With liberals taking an uncompromising hard line against the war and determined to push the party to the left, Democrats are worried about alienating independent voters, who tend to be more moderate -- especially in formerly GOP strongholds that the Democrats captured last November.

. . .But Still Enjoying Huge Advantages Over Republicans -- For Now

Nonetheless, the Democrats are more energized with enthusiasm -- and money -- to win next year's election than at any time since 1992. Most dramatically, the Democrats are raising vastly greater sums of money than the Republicans for the first time in over 30 years, according to the latest campaign financial reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

With 15 months to go before voters cast their November ballots next year, the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee has more than $20 million in the bank, compared with less than $6 million for its Republican counterpart. In the House the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has $20 million in the bank; the Republicans only $2 million.

By far, however, the widest money disparity between the two major parties is in the presidential contest.

A comparison between the top three presidential candidates for each party shows that the leading Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards -- had a combined $95 million in cash on hand at the end of June; their Republican rivals -- Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain -- had only $33 million between them in the same period.

This is in sharp contrast to the then-record $14 million raised by Bush's 2004 re-election campaign by the end of October 2003, which far surpassed all of his Democratic challengers, including the top two contenders at that time, John Kerry and Howard Dean (The former Vermont governor is now chairman of the Democratic National Committee -- and widely credited for his "50-state strategy" that enabled his party to retake Congress last fall).

Exposed: How Rove Manipulated Federal Government to Ensure Bush's '04 Re-Election

Another cause of the sudden rash of GOP resignations may also have been an expose by The Washington Post published Sunday that Rove pushed the executive branch into actions aimed at ensuring the re-election of Bush and the Republicans in Congress who supported him.

Citing documents and sources involved in the effort, The Post reported that Rove told political appointees from around the government at an October 1, 2003 "asset deployment" meeting in no uncertain terms that "the staging of official announcements, high-visibility trips and declarations of federal grants had to be carefully coordinated with the White House political affairs office to ensure the maximum promotion of Bush's reelection agenda and the Republicans in Congress who supported him."

It's a longstanding tradition for a presidential administration to seek to maximize its control of the machinery of government for political gain, particularly during a re-election campaign, dispatching, for example, Cabinet secretaries bearing government largess to battleground states in the closing days before voting begins.

But Rove, in his capacity as deputy chief of staff, pursued this goal far longer and much more systematically than any his predecessors, enlisting political appointees at every level of government in a never-ending campaign that was an integral part of his strategy to establish permanent Republican electoral dominance, according to The Post.

So systemic was Rove's bending of the government for GOP political gain that it has raised questions of whether the president's soon-to-be-former chief political strategist may have skirted with -- and possibly violated -- the 1934 Hatch Act, which prohibits the coercion of civil servants for partisan political support.

The questions lie at the heart of Rove's role in the highly controversial firing of nine U.S. attorneys. Rove has been subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but so far has refused to do so, citing executive privilege. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the committee, has threatened to have Rove cited for contempt of Congress if he continues to defy the committee's subpoena.

A Silver Lining: Bloomberg Won't Run as Third-Party Candidate

If there's a silver lining to the dark cloud of gloom in Republican ranks -- and to the relief of Democrats -- it's that they won't have to worry about Michael Bloomberg siphoning off votes. The New York City mayor -- a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent -- flatly declared Tuesday that he will not make a third-party run for the White House.

Bloomberg issued his definitive-sounding declaration during an interview with former CBS News anchor Dan Rather that was taped for airing on the HDNet cable network Tuesday night.

The mayor said that his willingness to take politically contrary views would limit his appeal as a national candidate. "My beliefs aren't tailored to what is politically popular," Bloomberg said. “I believe (in) certain things and if somebody asks me where I stand, I tell them. And that’s not a way to get elected generally.”

Bloomberg, a billionaire media magnate, holds strongly liberal views on most social issues, including abortion and same-gender marriage -- positions that are deeply unpopular with most Republicans and which likely led him to quit the GOP earlier this year.

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Volume II, Number 41
Copyright 2007, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, August 20, 2007

Is It the End of the Republican Party (As We Know It)?

Neoconservatives Have Run the Grand Old Party -- And the Conservative Movement -- Straight Into the Ground With Their 'End Of Whatever' Tunnel Vision, Triggering an Open Rebellion by Traditional, 'Small-L' Libertarian Conservatives

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (left) greets supporters at the August 11 Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa. The hard-charging Romney cruised to victory in the first votes cast in the 2008 race for the GOP presidential nomination. But according to guest commentator Justin Raimondo, it likely won't matter who wins the Republican nod: The party is doomed to suffer an electoral catastrophe because of the excesses of the neoconservatives, from President Bush on down, who have dominated the party -- and the country -- for the last 6 1/2 years. (Photo: Eric Thayer/Agence France-Presse)

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NOTE TO READERS: After taking a three-week break to go on a long-anticipated combined vacation/honeymoon with my wife (two-and-a-half months after our wedding), I had planned to return this week with an editorial vengeance on the outrageous shenanigans going on with the Republican Party. But as guest commentator Justin Raimondo demonstrates below, some writers can better articulate my feelings on this issue than I can. -- Skeeter Sanders

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By Justin Raimondo

"Endism" has been a favorite neoconservative theme over the years. Every once in a while the neocons announce the death of some commonly assumed idea that the rest of us take for granted.

During the 1950s, for example, they wrote the obituary of ideology itself, proclaiming that their own self-satisfied complacency was the apotheosis of human achievement. In the early 1990s, we heard all about the purported "End of History," similar to "the end of ideology," except extended to the four corners of the earth.

No one thought it at all unusual or alarming when Irving Kristol welcomed Hegel and his contemporary doppelgänger into the pages of The National Interest, at the time the leading neocon theoretical journal devoted to foreign policy.

More recently we have seen the implicit endism energizing the post-9/11 ideology of the official conservative movement, which has its long-standing defense of the Constitution, narrowly constructed, against the modern liberal "expansionist," or loose constructionist, view, which likens the original intent of the Framers to the primitive thoughts of Neanderthal man and avers that the Constitution and its meaning are always "evolving."

Are They Neocons -- Or Are They Really Neofascists?

The rise of the surveillance state, the repeal of habeas corpus, the consolidation of a police-state apparatus that spies on Americans and foreigners at will – these post-9/11 assaults on constitutional government in America have all been adopted as holy writ by a thoroughly neoconized "conservative" movement, which these days is just an adjunct of the GOP.

The Goldwater-fusionist devotion to decentralized power, the genuine fear of Big Government, the libertarian disdain for officialdom and its inherent inefficiencies have all been thrown overboard and a fascistic state-and-leader-worshipping cult of power installed in their place. As the favorite slogan of these post-9/11 Bizarro-cons puts it: "Everything has changed." Including what used to be called "conservatism," which morphed rapidly into an inverted funhouse-mirror image of itself.

The neocons have been consistently wrong in their "endism," although this sorry record hasn't punctured their intellectual pretensions. The Grand Consensus of the 1950s, which saw the welfare-warfare state as the culmination and endpoint of Western civilization, was soon wrecked on the rocky shores of the 1960s, which gave birth to a popular rebellion against an unpopular foreign war and a thoroughgoing exposure and rejection of the government's war on domestic dissent.

A Dangerous Fusion of Nationalism and Religious Zealotry

The "Termination of History," announced by Francis Fukuyama in his famous 1992 essay, proved even more problematic, what with 9/11 and the subsequent Middle Eastern wars that promise to preoccupy us for decades to come. Instead of blending into the bureaucratic grayness of the Universal Homogenous State Рas Fukuyama's inspiration, the philosopher Alexandre Kojève, characterized the "final form of human government" Рthe waters are roiled by powerful currents of nationalism [Arab vs. Western] and religiosity [Islam vs. Judeo-Christianity] that threaten to unleash a global conflagration.

The implied end of constitutional government in America, as a matter of supposed necessity, may have been yet another case of premature burial. There are now powerful dissents coming from conservatives, including this pledge to uphold the Bill of Rights and "restore the Constitution's checks and balances as enshrined by the Founders," issued to all the GOP presidential candidates by a panel of right-wing leaders.

Add to this the excitement generated among the younger set by the campaign of Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination – which is to antiwar conservatives what the late Senator Eugene McCarthy's 1968 run for the Democratic presidential nomination was to an earlier generation of antiwar liberals during the Vietnam war – and we have the makings of a full-scale rebellion on the Right. What Lew Rockwell calls "red-state fascism" is facing a significant challenge from within the conservative movement.

GOP Sows Neocon Wind -- And Now Is About to Reap the Neocon Whirlwind

Having sacrificed everything – their devotion to less government, their traditionally prudent temperament, their general distrust of power – in order to follow the neocons off the Iraqi cliff, the ostensibly "conservative" wing of the Republican Party faces an electoral catastrophe next year. There is, consequently, a "surge" of skepticism in GOP ranks as the administration tries to tamp down Republican voices of protest in the Senate.

The GOP caucus was supposed to be giving the White House until September, when General David Petraeus is scheduled to give his much-vaunted progress report, but they aren't waiting to jump ship [although the president's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, apparently thought it was time to do so].

First in the water is Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), the GOP's foreign policy maven:

"Mr. President, I rise today to offer observations on the continuing involvement of the United States in Iraq. In my judgment, our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world.

"The prospects that the current 'surge' strategy will succeed in the way originally envisioned by the president are very limited within the short period framed by our own domestic political debate. And the strident, polarized nature of that debate increases the risk that our involvement in Iraq will end in a poorly-planned withdrawal that undercuts our vital interests in the Middle East.

"Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world."

Translation: Our neocon-driven foreign policy has lost contact with reality – it's time to pull up stakes, minimize our losses, and get out of town.

A Growing GOP Revolt Against the Neocons' Fantasy View of Iraq

Senators George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and John Warner (R-Virginia) echo Lugar's dissent, with the former refuting the canard that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would hand the country over to al-Qaida, as the McClatchy newspapers report: "'That's nonsense,' [Voinovich] said. Iraq's Shi'ite majority would reject any Sunni al-Qaida effort to set up a religious government under a supreme leader."

Lugar, you'll remember, has always been a critic of the war, and he authored, in collaboration with Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), an effort early on to attach certain conditions and benchmarks to U.S. involvement but was rebuffed. Now he raises his objections once again, going the diplomatic route by not reminding his colleagues – and the administration –of his earlier qualms.

This is not to say that Lugar's dissent is principled, as is, say, the position of Representative Paul, or even Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska). It is, instead, remarkably cynical, addressed to policymakers in the spirit of a sympathizer advising his fellows to rein themselves in for their own good:

"The president and his team must come to grips with the shortened political timeline in this country for military operations in Iraq. Some will argue that political timelines should always be subordinated to military necessity, but that is unrealistic in a democracy.

"Many political observers contend that voter dissatisfaction in 2006 with administration policies in Iraq was the major factor in producing new Democratic Party majorities in both Houses of Congress. Domestic politics routinely intrude on diplomatic and military decisions. The key is to manage these intrusions so that we avoid actions that are not in our national interest."

Yes, occasionally the American people do"intrude" on the exclusive preserve of policymakers, but that's just one of the horrible inconveniences the elites have to put up with; it's really a shame, but there's nothing to be done about it.

What Lugar is telling his Republican compadres is what they know very well already: it's time to rid themselves of the neoconservative millstone before it drags them all down to defeat – and destroys the GOP, reducing it to the Southern regional party the Democrats were for much of the nation's history until the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Neocon Takeover of GOP Was Sparked By Liberal Takeover of Democrats in 1970s

The political disintegration of the Republican Party was preceded by a long, drawn-out intellectual decline that dates from the time of the neoconservative incursion into GOP ranks during the Reagan presidency, when the conservative, so-called "Scoop Jackson Democrats" -- named for the late senator from Washington state who were alienated by the liberal takeover of the Democratic Party in the 1970s -- first landed on right-wing shores and carved out a beachhead in the conservative movement.

The birth of "Big Government conservatism," and the role this clearly oxymoronic set of ideas played in leading to the GOP's present debacle, sounded the death-knell of the movement as a coherent set of ideas historically rooted in American traditions. Since 9/11, conservatism has reverted back to European-style absolutism, as evidenced by the Right's embrace of the revisionist theory of the "unitary presidency," which elevates the president in wartime to monarchical status.

That Bruce Fein, a leading conservative legal theorist of the Reagan era, is now openly calling for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, on the grounds that his office has been the intellectual nerve center of this administration's bid to rule by edict, signals the end of the GOP coalition as we know it (See the July 23 edition of The 'Skeeter Bites Report in the blog archive).

For Traditional Conservatives, 'Enough Is Enough!'

Fein's sentiments are hardly limited to the upper intellectual reaches of Washington's conservative circles. As Sally Quinn reports in The Washington Post:

"The big question right now among Republicans is how to remove Vice President Cheney from office. Even before this week's blockbuster series in The Post, discontent in Republican ranks was rising. As the reputed architect of the war in Iraq, Cheney is viewed as toxic, and as the administration's leading proponent of an attack on Iran, he is seen as dangerous. As long as he remains vice president, according to this thinking, he has the potential to drag down every member of the party – including the presidential nominee – in next year's elections.

"Removing a sitting vice president is not easy, but this may be the moment…."

When a cancer is generated by the body, the only recourse is to cut it out – but, even then, sometimes it is too late. I'm afraid, in this case, the disease has progressed too far to save the patient. The best that can be hoped for is a relatively painless death.

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Justin Raimondo is a contributing editor for The American Conservative magazine and the editorial director of He is a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute and an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993).

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Volume II, Number 40
Guest Commentary Copyright 2007, Justin Raimondo.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2007, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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