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Bolten’s Five Point Rehab Plan? A Whole Lotta…


Mike Allen has a doozy of a Joshua Bolten steno piece in Time Magazine, detailing how the Harvard wunderkind is supposed to save the Bush legacy with his brilliant five-point plan.  Being the cynic that I am, I decided to give this piece a thorough read and dissect it with you guys — because there are some juicy bits that just cry out for discussion in this Happy Talk Administration piece.

"We have a thousand days to get the job done," he said, according to attendees. The rearranging of staff in the Administration, which has included moving out some loyalists from Texas and is likely to continue, reflects the President’s insistence that Bolten rethink an enterprise that had a series of horrible quarters. The real deadline is not 1,000 days from now, when Bush leaves office. The marker that is uppermost in the minds of Bush’s inner circle is Nov. 7, when Republicans could lose control of the House and even the Senate. "If we don’t keep Congress, there won’t be a legacy," said a presidential adviser. "The legacy will be investigations and fights over Executive privilege" with newly empowered Democrats.

So the White House is now on a survival footing, and Bolten is essentially planning a six-month campaign that will not only prevent a Republican hemorrhage in the fall but might even produce accomplishments for Bush in his lame-duck years. The new chief recognizes that he needs to show results quickly, since aides have claimed to be rebooting the second term so many times (at least three, by TIME’s count) that even their allies have lost track.

So, let me get this straight: having done a crappo job for the last five years (ballooning deficit, anyone?), suddenly Bolten is going to fly in like Superman and save the day with his big brain and his five-point plan?  Uh huh. (Is anyone else getting that Bat Manuel feeling, too?)

And the whole GOP defense of Bushie still boils down to "don’t elect Democrats because they will actually investigate our lawbreaking and ineptitude?"  Whoa — now that is a campaign slogan right there, isn’t it?  And it is no longer about the "Bush legacy" so much as covering the Bush ass by ensuring that the GOP retains control of both houses of Congress to prevent any meaningful oversight from ever being done for the rest of the Bush years?  Does that about cover it?  (Had enough?  Vote for a Democrat.)

There is a bit of fill-in on the McClellan resignation as well.

The next morning, press secretary Scott McClellan appeared on the South Lawn with Bush to announce to reporters in a choked voice that he would leave his job in two or three weeks, a few months short of three years at the podium. McClellan, considered "family" because he had worked for Bush in the Texas Governor’s office, made no effort to hide from colleagues his sadness about going early. But top Republicans were being consulted about his replacement within days after Bolten’s promotion was announced, and the loyal Texan got the message. Friends said McClellan wanted to get it over with, to short-circuit the absurdity of having to refuse to speculate about his future to reporters. Bush praised McClellan for his "integrity," a pointed absolution for the fact that McClellan was left in the dark about the involvement in the CIA-leak case of White House officials he had defended. Offers from speakers’ bureaus and other businesses have rolled in, and most of the week’s photographs showed McClellan smiling.

So, to recap: in Bushworld, lying to the press about the involvement of high level WH aides breaking the law by outing a CIA NOC is considered "integrity." Good to know. Also of note, the Wingnut welfare has kicked in to buy an unhappy McClellan’s silence before he had time to ink a tell-all book deal. You have to admit, they are good at the buying people off thing, aren’t they?

But the most intriguing part of the article in my mind was this about Karl Rove:

Two hours after the South Lawn appearance, the White House announced that Karl Rove, whose name is synonymous with unchecked authority in this Administration, would be yielding his day-to-day policy duties. "I’ve been asked by the President and my new boss to focus on big strategic questions and the bigger issues," Rove told TIME. The idea, according to an aide, is for Rove to focus on "immigration, not the definition of seaward lateral boundaries." But Rove relishes his role at the nexus of policy and politics, and had dived into the governing responsibilities Bush gave him at the start of the second term. He tackled both fundamentals and minutiae, from formalizing the elaborate steps aides must take when preparing for policy time with the President to revising the official calendars handed out at Friday meetings of policy deputies so that they could record progress on topics raised at previous meetings. He even spent hours editing memos written for the President by specialists on everything from levees to student test scores.

The Democratic National Committee called the change in Rove’s role a "demotion," and some insiders viewed it as a slap. "This is Josh saying there’s a new sheriff in town, and there will only be one chief of staff," said a former West Wing tenant. A Bolten friend said Rove had been reined in by Bush, who realized that even Rove can do only so many people’s jobs. Aides said Rove, 55, who retains his titles of senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, will move across the hall from his high-ceilinged office in the West Wing and turn it over to the new deputy chief of staff in charge of day-to-day policy, Harvard-trained wunderkind Joel Kaplan, 36, one of the former Supreme Court clerks from the Austin policy shop.

Rove has been moved out of his office to one across the hall and replaced by a Harvard grad and Bolten loyalist, had his portfolio reduced and will now be concentrating on "immigration?" But it’s not a demotion or anything, just an opportunity for Karl to refocus his energy? If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck…I’m just saying.  (Oh, and et tu Mike Allen?  Oh, how the loyalty of the press can shift.  He who controls the cocktail weenie trays controls the spin, eh?)

Bolten shoves Rove aside without so much as a "by your leave?"  What does this mean in terms of Bush’s "loyalty" to Karl — or is this a PR move, where Rove creeps back into the shadows like the venemous spider he is, allowing Bolten to take all the public heat if things don’t improve?  Ah, the tangled web and Machiavellian machinations of this crew of malignant Bushie sycophants.  As the stomach turns.

Oh, and here’s a thought, why demote Rove at all?  If he’s mucked things up so badly and Bush is unhappy with his performance, why not just fire his ass?  Why is Bush such a weenie that he can’t fire anyone?  Just asking.

And the frabtaculor "five point plan?"  Well, it’s all that and a bag of chips, according to Allen:

1 DEPLOY GUNS AND BADGES. This is an unabashed play to members of the conservative base who are worried about illegal immigration. Under the banner of homeland security, the White House plans to seek more funding for an extremely visible enforcement crackdown at the Mexican border, including a beefed-up force of agents patrolling on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). "It’ll be more guys with guns and badges," said a proponent of the plan. "Think of the visuals. The President can go down and meet with the new recruits. He can go down to the border and meet with a bunch of guys and go ride around on an ATV." [RH Notes: Wow, the Preznit gets to ride souped up bikes around with another Commander Codpiece photo opportunity and a popgun. And its an excuse for some more Texas faux ranch vacation time, all wrapped up in one package. Sweet. Bet that was a hard sell for Mr. All Play and No Work.  Sure hope he doesn’t fall off the ATV in front of the cameras — that would make the whole "Dukakis in a tank" thing look like small potaters, now wouldn’t it?]

2 MAKE WALL STREET HAPPY. In an effort to curry favor with dispirited Bush backers in the investment world, the Administration will focus on two tax measures already in the legislative pipeline–extensions of the rate cuts for stock dividends and capital gains. "We need all these financial TV shows to be talking about how great the economy is, and that only happens when their guests from Wall Street talk about it," said a presidential adviser. [RH notes: Guess someone else has noticed that the CNBC folks have been a little gloom and doom lately. Next up, How to Woo Maria Bartiromo in Ten Easy Steps.]

3 BRAG MORE. White House officials who track coverage of Bush in media markets around the country said he garnered his best publicity in months from a tour to promote enrollment in Medicare’s new prescription-drug plan. So they are planning a more focused and consistent effort to talk about the program’s successes after months of press reports on start-up difficulties. Bolten’s plan also calls for more happy talk about the economy. With gas prices a heavy drain on Bush’s popularity, his aides want to trumpet the lofty stock market and stable inflation and interest rates. They also plan to highlight any glimmer of success in Iraq, especially the formation of a new government, in an effort to balance the negative impression voters get from continued signs of an incubating civil war. [RH notes: Did I mention "happy talk?" Can you say "bullshit" or "lying to the public" — I thought you could.  FWIW, wouldn’t it be a better idea to actually achieve something (anything?!?) before you go around bragging?]

4 RECLAIM SECURITY CREDIBILITY. This is the riskiest, and potentially most consequential, element of the plan, keyed to the vow by Iran to continue its nuclear program despite the opposition of several major world powers. Presidential advisers believe that by putting pressure on Iran, Bush may be able to rehabilitate himself on national security, a core strength that has been compromised by a discouraging outlook in Iraq. [RH Notes: No matter how many times you say the phrase "Iranian menace," people just shudder and think about how much of a mess George Bush could make of things just like he’s done with Iraq. Not exactly a winning strategy when everyone hopes to God that your boss doesn’t touch an issue with a ten foot pole, now is it?]

5 COURT THE PRESS….His first move, working with counselor Dan Bartlett, was to offer the press secretary job to Tony Snow of Fox News radio and television, a former newspaper editorial writer and onetime host of Fox News Sunday who served George H.W. Bush as speechwriting director. Snow, a father of three and a sax player, is the bona fide outsider that Republican allies have long prescribed for Bushworld and would bring irreverence to a place that hasn’t seen a lot of fun lately. [RH Notes: Oh yeah, what an outsider. Faux News propaganda wing commentator becomes WH spokesperson. Huge shift in perspective. Next up: Rush Limbaugh admits to liking Republicans. News at eleven.]

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling a Heckuva Job, Joshie coming on.

PS — Have I mentioned that I missed you guys and that it is nice to be home on the blog?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com