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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Christie Deconstructed

posted by Jazz at 2/01/2005 07:45:00 AM

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Robert Semple Jr. takes Christie Todd Whitman to task today in the nyt. His complaint, quite the opposite of most of the neocon venom currently being spewed at her, is that she failed to name names and take a strong enough lash to the Republicans who stabbed her in the back and ruined her career. He also finds her guilty of being rather gullible when it came to the cloakroom and dagger politics of the Bush administration. Apparently, following her first meeting with Dubya, Karl Rove himself took her aside and told her that she was one of the three key people who would help ensure a second term for Bush. (All emphasis mine.)
... This she took to mean that "the work I would do in building a strong record on the environment would help the president build on his base by attracting moderate voters."

"As it turned out," she now concedes in her just-published political memoir, "It's My Party Too," "I don't seem to have understood Karl correctly."

In fact, she misunderstood him completely. Why she did so is one of the many puzzles in this interesting but often disingenuous and frustrating book. A cursory check would have revealed that Mr. Rove had no use for environmentalists and, indeed, had long believed that Mr. Bush's father lost the 1992 election partly because he was too squishy on environmental issues, offending the conservative base on which Mr. Rove pins his political strategy.

Had she fully understood that, as it now appears, Mr. Rove wanted her on board to help provide cover for the easing of important environmental laws, she might never have taken the job at all.

I don't think that these revelations, both from the book and from recent public appearances, come as a surprise to anyone. When she left the EPA citing a "desire to spend more time with her family at home" it was one of Washington's wide open secrets that Bush and Rove had driven her out for failing to toe the ideological line. Whitman, with her pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-environmental stance was nothing more than moderate window dressing to make the neocons look more palatable to the middle. What they didn't count on was that she was actually serious about her beliefs and didn't want to quietly stand by while Bush derailed most of the governmental safeguards that she held dear.

This article details some of the tactics she faced from Team Rove, ranging from misleading promises to flat out lies.
But take [the job] she did, leading to two and a half years of bureaucratic struggle against the lobbyists and ideologues Mr. Bush had installed in every other important environmental job, as well as a series of brutally embarrassing policy reversals that might have driven a less loyal person out of town much sooner. Of these, the most humiliating was the president's decision to reverse a campaign pledge to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, only weeks after Ms. Whitman, acting on good faith and with Condoleezza Rice's assurances, had promised America's European allies that the pledge would be honored. But there were other setbacks, and they must have stung.
After this, the author complains about Whitman's refusal to break the "11th commandment" as specified during the Reagan era - Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican. While I think many opponents of the Bush Reich would have loved to see her launch a verbal ICBM at the administration, I don't see how any competent analyst could be surprised at how "coy" she was about pointing fingers. The woman worked her entire life for that party, flawed though it is.

On this score, she is in full cry, laying about her against the "fundamentalists," the "social conservatives" and the "ideological zealots" whose views on abortion, race and other big social issues she battled tirelessly as governor of New Jersey. This is a call to arms to the remaining moderates of the Eisenhower/Rockefeller school, and a timely reminder in this age of bitter ideological combat that there was once a Republican mainstream, before the mainstream flowed right.

Yet she is maddeningly coy about the reactionaries who determined the Bush administration's environmental policies and ultimately did her in. There is no doubt whatsoever that Vice President Dick Cheney's insistence on unilaterally dismantling the Clean Air Act to please the administration's industrial patrons torpedoed Ms. Whitman's dream of reforming that law in an orderly, bipartisan manner.

She said publicly last week that the weakening of the act had been the insult that finally persuaded her to resign. But in the book she refers only in the most general terms to the "antiregulation element of the base" and to officials who favored "the concerns of business" over the needs of the environment.

Christie Todd Whitman's departure from politics was very likely the death knell for any hopes of a rebirth of moderate, reasonable policies in the GOP, at least for the foreseeable future. I'm just glad that I got out when I did. I believe that you will see other moderates, such as Olympia Snowe, up on the chopping block as soon as Bush's team feels that the neoconservative core is large enough to maintain a majority stranglehold on the government without compromise. The rumors of an in-party attack on Arlen Spectre in his next primary are, I think, just a dark shadow of even darker days to come.