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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Why no Liberal Rove? 

TraitorGate leads liberals to ask two questions: will the treacherous Rove go to jail? followed shortly by why don't we have a Rove of our own on the left?

There is a reason that there is no Liberal Rove and its not the one that the right thinks. Its not because Liberals are too wussy to behave like Rove. The real reason is that Rove is not an effective politician.

For liberals looking at the GOP trifecta of Whitehouse, House and Senate this might seem an odd point of view. Rove's masterful exploitation of wedge issue politics is generally seen as a masterstroke, which of course it is from the point of view of winning elections. But from the point of view of political achievements the balance sheet is essentially empty.

The signature issues of the Bush Presidency to date have been the Tax cut bill, the No Child Left Behind Act and the PATRIOT act. That is not much of a legacy for a two term President whose party controls both houses of Congress. And when you look deeper the bills really don't amount to very much at all. The PATRIOT act is the result of 9/11 rather than political skill. The No Child Left Behind act was passed but not funded.

The only thing close to a solid achievement is the Tax cut bill which was only passed through the use of a procedural manipulation requiring the provisions to expire. Unless the President's approval ratings rise soon this is most unlikely.

Not only is the President's record of achievement meagre he is already generally regarded as being something of a lame duck President barely six months into his second term. Social security 'reform', the centerpiece of his second term agenda is dead and there are no other big ideas to replace it.

It need not have been this way. Bush could easily have established himself as a popular centrist President in the wake of 9/11. He could have established a dominant center-right power block that would dominate the political landscape for decades. Instead the post-9/11 spirit of unity was quickly abandonded in favor of hyper-partisan attack-dog politics and the invasion of Iraq.

Rove's style of politics work only for the politician who only cares about holding the office. If you want to actually do anything during your term you are stuck. Bush's Social Security agenda is dead as a dodo because he never campaigned for if when he was seeking re-election, instead of making the case for his policies Bush tried his best to avoid talkiing about them at all.

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