Sunday, October 30, 2005

The “Ding Dong, The Bush Is Dead” fever rages on, disappointments notwithstanding. Hurricane Katrina was, politically, a wash. And say what you like about Harriet Miers, but at least the disaffected right wrapped the whole thing up in a month. Meanwhile, the left’s still panting orgasmically about Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into what Scooter Libby said to Judith Miller about what Valerie Plame knew about what Joseph C Wilson IV said … zzzz … fingers growing heavy … losing the will to type. …

Most Americans have never heard of any of these people. What’s that? You’ve heard of Scooter? No, you’re mistaken, you’re thinking of Skeeter — Skeeter Davis, the late country & western singer, who had a Top Three hit in 1963 with “Don’t the-ey know it’s The End Of The World/It ended when you said goodbye,” which is apparently what George W. Bush will be singing as Karl Rove’s led out of the Oval Office in handcuffs.

Just for the record, Scooter Libby is the highest-ranking Scooter in the Bush administration, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. All last week, lefty gloaters were eagerly anticipating “Fitzmas,” their designation for that happy day when federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald hands down indictments against Mr. Libby, and Mr. Rove, and maybe Mr. Cheney, and — boy oh boy, who knows? — maybe Chimpy Bushitlerburton himself. Pat Fitzgerald has been making his list, checking it twice, found out who’s naughty or nice, and he’s ready to go on a Slay Ride, leaving Mr. Bush the Little Drummed-Out Boy and the Dems having a blue blue blue blue blue-state Christmas in November 2006, if not before. [Mr. Libby was indicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in the CIA leak investigation.]

Well, I enjoy the politics of personal destruction as much as the next chap, and one appreciates that it’s been a long time since the heady days when Dems managed to collect the scalps of both Newt Gingrich and his short-lived successor within a few short weeks. But, as I’ve said before, one reason why the Democratic Party is such a bunch of losers is because they’re all tactics and no strategy.

Suppose they succeed in destroying Mr. Libby and a bunch of other non-household names. Then what? Several analysts are suggesting that the 2006 elections are shaping up like 1994, when Newt’s revolution swept the Democratic old guard from power. It’s a bit early for my reckless election predictions, but I’d bet on the Republicans holding both the House and Senate. Though the electorate was disgusted by the sheer arrogance of Democrat corruption, 1994 wasn’t just a throw-the-bums-out spasm — despite Peter Jennings sniffing that “the voters had a temper tantrum.” Au contraire, it was also a throw-the-bums-in election. Voters liked the alternative — a coherent conservative agenda. It’s quite possible that the electorate will have a throw-the-bums-out attitude to the Republicans in 12 months’ time, but I’d say it’s almost completely unfeasible that they’ll be in a mood to throw the Dems in. There are not a lot of competitive congressional districts and those that are are mostly in Democrat blue states that, if not yet red, are turning distinctly purple. The Dems’ big immovable obstacle remains their inability to articulate a set of ideas that connects with the electorate. James Carville and Stanley Greenberg are said to be working on a Democrat version of Newt’s Contract with America, but Mr. Greenberg’s a pollster and Mr. Carville’s an attack dog. Whatever their charms, these aren’t the ideas guys.

The difficulty for the left is that if the problem is Iraq, Katrina or pretty much anything else, the solution is not obviously the Democratic Party. The future of Iraq is mostly a matter for Iraqis now and it’s not going badly, as you can sort of tell if you de-code the headlines : “Bitterly Divided Iraqis Take Time Out From Trembling On Brink Of Civil War To Overwhelmingly Ratify New Constitution,” “Three Sunnis And Their Pet Camel Boycott Poll In Sign Iraq May Be Becoming Ungovernable,” etc. In fact, it’s Syria that’s bitterly divided and becoming ungovernable and Baby Assad’s fall will not be long now.

Nonetheless, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, is full of gloom. As The Financial Times reported, “Vice President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government’s foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the U.S. weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.”

What does he mean by “hijacked”? Is Col. Wilkerson saying that Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld have imposed their foreign policy on the United States against the wishes of the president? I think not. If you read any Bush speech or talk to him for five minutes, it’s clear that he’s no supporter of the disastrously complacent State Department realpolitik herd mentality reflected by Col. Wilkerson. Every word he utters on the subject suggests he inclines to the Cheney-Rumsfeld view of the world — or, rather, that they incline to his. The president sets foreign policy. He’s the pilot; he can’t “hijack” his own plane. Col. Wilkerson is like a whiney stewardess in a snit because she doesn’t want to learn a new spiel. “Do you want the chicken or the beef?” He’s been serving up State Department chicken in Cairo and Amman and Damascus for decades, and he’s not comfortable with the new Texas beef. But the only hijack that’s going on is the State Department’s bland assumption that it has the right to block the president’s foreign policy.

The Bush caricature — the idiot sock-puppet manipulated by Messrs. Cheney and Rove to do their bidding — is exactly backwards. The president is his own man — to such a degree that he seems not to notice that very few others are and, when he does, his response is to hunker down among a tight circle of loyalists. So, while he has a certain amount of stellar talent around him, most of his administration is either in the hands of opponents like Col. Wilkerson or trusted non-entities like Harriet Miers.

In that sense, the Miers implosion and the Valerie Plame quagmire are an instructive contrast. The Democrats see the world in purely political terms. They have an increasingly tenuous grasp of the profound social, cultural and national security issues that transcend the politics and the passing figures associated with them. And, if their object in the Fitzgerald investigation was somehow to get the administration’s Iraq policy criminalized, they failed utterly. Look at it this way: If “Iraq” is the James Bond movies, Scooter Libby is the gal who played Moneypenny in “The Living Daylights.” Happy Fitzmas.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

©Mark Steyn, 2005

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