Thursday, October 22, 2009

He was there in spirit

Karl Rove in his Wall Street Journal perch --

There is also the heavy whiff of politics in the administration's [Afghan] war deliberations. The president's senior political adviser, David Axelrod, apparently attends war cabinet meetings—something I did not do as President Bush's senior political adviser.

From Bob Woodward's account of the Iraq war run-up --

The president also informed Karl Rove, his chief political strategist, of his decision [that there would be war in Iraq] over the [2002] holidays. Rove had gone to Crawford to brief Bush on the confidential plan for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. While Laura Bush sat reading a book, Rove gave a PowerPoint presentation on the campaign's strategy, themes and timetable.

Opening his laptop, he displayed for Bush in bold letters on a dark blue background:


Strong Leader
Bold Action
Big Ideas
Peace in World
More Compassionate America
Cares About People Like Me
Leads a Strong Team

All things being equal, the president asked, when would you like to begin the campaign and active fundraising?

Rove said he wanted the president to start that February or March [2003] and begin raising the money, probably $200 million. He had a schedule. In February, March and April 2003, there would be between 12 and 16 fundraisers.

"We got a war coming," the president told Rove flatly, "and you're just going to have to wait." He had decided. "The moment is coming." The president did not give a date, but he left the impression with Rove that it would be January or February or March at the latest.

"Remember the problem with your dad's campaign," Rove replied. "A lot of people said he got started too late."

"I understand," Bush said. "I'll tell you when I'm comfortable with you starting."

So before getting to the bit where Woodward was being spun by his sources [K. Rove], note that Bush was telling Karl Rove over Christmas 2002 that there was going to be a war with Saddam. In public, the suspense was maintained up until March 2003. Technically, Rove wasn't in the "war cabinet". He didn't need to be.

But now note the preposterousness of Bush's supposed sacrifice of campaigning. There wasn't an election coming until November 2004. There was no prospect of an opponent in the Republican primary. So he was still a full 15 months at the earliest from needing to do any serious campaigning.

But Rove wept as Bush forsook some fundraisers in early 2003. And never noticed that Bush telling him there was a war coming could be mapped into the first four criteria of his Powerpoint presentation. The Bush-Rove relationship was You Furnish the Pictures, and I'll Furnish the War. No cabinet meetings necessary.

UPDATE: Headline on Rove op-ed in US edition of WSJ --

Obama Goes Wobbly on Afghanistan

Headline on Con Coughlin op-ed in WSJ European edition --

Brown Goes Wobbly on Afghanistan

So the people who have to make the actual decision about sending troops into danger are "wobbly". The pundits are all for it.

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