Saturday, September 19, 2009
Maybe now David Broder will reconsider his high opinion of Karl Rove:From
a former deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush and senior speechwriter for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
Every administration politicizes hiring to a degree, but some in the Bush administration went beyond the pale. Much is known about the political firings of U.S. attorneys and the party-line enforcers who removed or intimidated qualified personnel at the Justice Department. Less well known is what happened outside Justice.
For nearly three years at the Defense Department, I saw young, inexperienced political operatives enjoy nearly unrestrained power. Like schoolyard bullies who picked on people because they could, these operatives pursued personal vendettas, blocked hirings, delayed promotions and pressured high-ranking officials.
Backed by the White House political shop, some operatives refused to hire experienced communicators to help the president and the defense secretary work effectively on Afghanistan and Iraq. They insisted on hiring friends or mediocre candidates from a White House-approved list.
One loyal conservative with sterling credentials was refused even an interview because a personnel official was fighting with the conservative senator the candidate worked for. Another credentialed applicant was rejected for allegedly failing to vote in 2004. When it was proved that she had voted, the personnel office raised another objection. There were also reports that the Pentagon personnel system raised frivolous political objections to hiring experts on biological and chemical weapons.
And these are just things I knew about.
Frustrated by his inability to staff his own department, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went to the White House in 2005 to sort out the situation. He met a bespectacled wall of resistance in Karl Rove. When Rumsfeld prepared to go higher, top Rove aides -- including a future U.S. attorney -- tried to intimidate Pentagon officials who were encouraging Rumsfeld's effort. Even Rumsfeld's chief of staff asked me to help persuade the secretary to stop pushing personnel issues.
The remark about "young, inexperienced political operatives enjoy nearly unrestrained power" would appear to be a reference to the Monica Goodling / Regent University
In the comments section, there is this observation from what appears to be an Eisenhower (or Ford or Nixon) Republican:
Latimer has done an excellent job summarizing all of the reasons that many of us who once worked for the Republican Party can no longer support either the party or it's leaders. But like many disillusioned conservatives who believe that Conservatism is some Virgin Godess betrayed by the mendacity of tin-penny despots like Karl Rove, Latimer refuses to consider that the real problem may be the rotteness in the state of Conservatism itself.
Latimer laments that he was denied what he says was the opportunity to continue the Reagan Revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth since seeing the Reagan Revolution out to its logical conclusion is exactly what Latimar did.
The utter contempt both for government and for government expertise that Latimer found so revolting in the Republican functionaries around him wasn't just the case of a few bad apples putting their own careers before the needs of the country. Like the scandals at Abu Ghrab, the stink in today's conservatism comes straight from the top. It was Ronald Reagan himself who opened Act I of the corruption of American conservatism as a responsible governing philosophy when he declared on his very first day as president that government was not the solution to our problems, it was the problem.
To an old FDR fan like Reagan, undermining confidence and respect in the democratic nation-state may not have been any big deal, since Reagan was always more libertarian than conservative. So, defaming government was just his way of saying that taxes were too high.
But to Southern neo-confederates who hated the federal government with a primal rage for its opposition to white supreamacy, Reagan's attack on government was heard as an endorsement of Jim Crow. To right wing authoritarians, especially those on the Religious Right, Reagan's attacks against government were heard as an attack against secular democracy itself, and an endorsement of replacing man's law with God's law.
And for the rich and powerful who resented a government responsive to the exploited masses looking over their shoulders and challenging their financial games, Reagan's opening day assault on the democratic state was heard as sanctioning selfishness and greed, the pursuit of personal rather than collective ends.
Unlocking the potentialities of individuals sounded a lot more noble than sanctioning selfishness and greed, but that is what Reagan did. He planted the seed of doubt in the efficacy of the democracic state that has now borne bitter fruit as an inability to engage in collective action at all.
What Reagan did was replace America's democratic state with a de-regulated one, which means that he gave us a politics distinguished by its lawlessness.
Try as they might, it is impossible for conservatives like Latimer to separate the actions of the Ronald Reagan they revere from the attitudes and worldview of Reagan's ideological heirs that conservatives like Latimer now deplore.
Wow, that comment is a great spot. I, too, don't buy that "return conservatism to its Reagan-era purity" crap. But I also don't buy the "Reagan was more of a libertarian" crap. Underneath all the blather about freedom, big government, welfare queens, etc., it's always been about a return to oligarchy. The corruption at Justice merely reflects another facet of that program: making sure that rules only apply to little people and to the ruling class's enemies--but not to the ruling class and its servants. I wish I could believe that there were more real conservatives out there, but the record of the past 30 years in particular suggests that they've always been a sad minority--even in their supposed own party.
That was good summary of the Reagan collision in all its faces.
Big tent: oligarchs, christians, white supremists, libertarians, and maybe a real conservative or two.
But I disagree with Nash, I think Reagan was a libertarian. When he was governor of California he championed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the country.
Now the Bushes were (are still) oligarchs in the extreme. Their goal is America as banana republic.
nash & Rockie: Thanks for your remarks. I don't always look at the comments for the op-eds, but occasionally scan two or three pages worth (which amounts to about 60 comments total). Most are what you'd expect, but occasionally I stumble across a good one (which can bolster my convictions or challenge them). Unfortunately in that format/presentation, they are not likely to be read except by a few visitors, so why not give them more exposure on a blog?