Rove leads Bush on GOP campaign trail
WASHINGTON -- Karl Rove is whistling in the dark if he thinks his trademark political attacks on Democrats can work again in the mid-term elections this fall.
The American people are finally waking up, and the Democrats have the cards -- if they have the courage to play them.
Americans know that President Bush's strategy for victory in Iraq is costing more lives -- American and Iraqi -- almost every day as he heads into the third anniversary of the invasion of that oil-rich country. It was supposed to be a "cakewalk," remember?
Rove, deputy White House chief of staff and the Republican Party's political guru, seems to forget that Bush has picked up a lot of baggage since the last election. The Hurricane Katrina debacle and the Iraq quagmire come to mind and partially explain his decline in public opinion polls.
Rove will continue operating under a cloud until special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald completes his investigation of the unlawful leak of the identity of former CIA undercover officer Valerie Plame to some Washington journalists.
Nonetheless, Rove headlined a recent pep rally for the nervous Republican Party faithful and made it clear he believes accusations that the Democrats are weak on national security will resonate with voters in November, just as they did in the 2004 presidential race.
Bush boasted after his triumph in that election that he had earned a lot of political capital to spend. Then the roof fell in.
The first year of Bush's second term was marked by spectacular ineptitude, highlighted by failures in handling the hurricane catastrophes. His performance raised doubts that the administration can handle other national crises.
Those doubts deepen against the background of the endless U.S. occupation of Iraq, with its links to the torture of prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi custody, the secret CIA-run prisons and Bush's pathetic insistence that he could simply ignore the law and spy on Americans without a court order.
Bush's party is deeply mired in the Jack Abramoff influence-buying scandal. And Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was forced to resign as House Republican leader because of his own ethics morass.
None of this bodes well for the GOP. That may explain Rove's resort to his favorite tactic of resorting to a national security scare.
"The United States faces a ruthless enemy," Rove said in the campaign's opening salvo, "and we need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment America finds itself in. President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for many Democrats."
At a recent news conference, Bush insisted the November "election is about peace and prosperity." Well, hardly. Where is the peace? And where is the prosperity for thousands of U.S. workers facing layoffs in auto factories?
Senate hearings begin next week into Bush's decision to order eavesdropping inside the United States by the National Security Agency, the government's giant electronic ear.
The White House spin doctors are trying to paint that as the "terrorist surveillance program," more of the administration's strategy of scare the heck out of everyone and you can get away with anything you want to do.
It's interesting to note that the law Bush has ignored -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- allows domestic surveillance only with a court warrant that must be obtained either before the eavesdropping or within 72 hours afterward. The law was written in 1978.
"We're having this discussion in 2006," he said. "It's a different world."
If Bush thought the law needed updating, he should have asked Congress to change it. Bush should be reminded that he twice has sworn to uphold the Constitution and to see that the laws are faithfully executed.
Under Rove's political guidance, Bush will be campaigning for Republican congressional candidates later this year, stressing his domestic and foreign policy record. But he may find some members of the GOP reluctant to jump on his bandwagon.