Back after the debacle of the 2004 election, when Bush and Rove decided to use their “vast political capital” to steamroll the privatization of Social Security, I remember first wondering if perhaps they’d gotten seriously off-message. Not so much because Social Security has been called the ‘Third Rail’ of politics, in that anyone who tries to touch it gets electrocuted (and, I’d have to say, that record still looks about right). But because they tried to sell it using a tactic that could only really appeal to those with zero conscience.
Here’s what I mean – in talking to seniors, President Bush would always, smirkingly, say that for them, nothing would happen to their Social Security. He seemed incredulous when this didn’t sell the plan. In fact, one startling example that their plan was as crappy as it turned out to be was that on this roadshow, where only pre-screened, Bush advocates are let in the door, people started asking tough questions.
It struck me then, as it does now, that this administration is so selfish, so focused on what is good for them (and their peers), that the idea that some people would vote on what is good for the country is just hard to swallow.
Because when you say, “…we’re not going to be changing your benefits at all…” the end of that sentence simply HAS to be, “…just your children’s and grandchildren’s benefits.” At the very least, doesn’t this just sound like something you’d be a bit leery of?
I thought of this today when noticing that Bush has, in addition to the loathsome and non-confirmable UN Secretary John Bolten, re-nominated Ken Tomlinson to the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Tomlinson, you’ll remember, was the guy who spent his time taking notes on programming on PBS, trying to portray it as overtly liberal. He’s also about as qualified for this job as Mike Brown was for the head of FEMA.
Just a week ago, the press praised our president for speaking about bi-partisanship after getting “thumped” on Election Day. Those are good words, and he certainly sounded far less snotty and pissy than one might expect. But by re-nominating Bolton and Tomlinson, the president is hoping that those Senators who lost last week will send a big “fuck you” to the Democrats who unseated them by supporting this insanely unpopular president. It’s not a tactic likely to work, as (sad as it is to say) many of those Senators have a bit of personal pride and are unlikely to have their last moments in office spent carrying water for a president with a 31% national popularity.
But Rove and Bush don’t think that way. They think about what they would do if they had just lost their seat. They’d be spiteful, malicious, and try to screw over the person who “took” their seat. It’s sad, really.
This is why I think the next two years will truly be political gridlock. Both because the Democrats are unlikely to be wizards in getting sweeping legislation passed, and just as equally because the White House will not change course at all, regardless of what they tell the press. Naturally, this will be reported as a failure on the part of the Democrats (which is another reason why the WH won’t budge on their policies), and not a reflection of the inflexibility of the administration.
It’s not going to be fun to watch.