Over the weekend, Karl Rove gave one of his recycled speeches, declaring that Republicans keep us safe and Democrats want to sell out to the terrorist. At center point was the NSA spying program and criticism of it. Rove jumped on Democrats who criticize the illegal program, but fails to mention that many prominent Republicans also are at odds with the administration on the program.
This, I think is a tactical error. It might have been a winning issue if Bush was running again... but he is not. Instead, congressmen are running for re-election and the GOP will have to put up a new candidate for the white house in 2008. Karl Roves comments were lose-lose for the GOP.
First, it either traps congressmen. Either they must be seen as Bush's lackeys when the majority of American people are still dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Being labeled as a congressman who will pander to the White House is not the best position to be in right now. Or, the congressmen must distance themselves from the White House and stake out "independent" ground. This is not good for an administration that is still hoping to accomplish a lot in its last three years in office including the PATRIOT Act. Further fracturing the Republican party onle further erodes Bush's agenda.
Second, it places the next GOP presidential candidate in a bad spot. The current popular front runner is John McCain, who has publicly criticized the president on the NSA program, claiming that Bush probably did not have legal authority. If Rove continues to categorize those who support and those who oppose the program as good and bad for this country, he will have already cemented a negative impression on the possible GOP candidate. As current polling stands, there are no non-moderate Republicans who can beat Hillary Clinton in a head to head match up. Rove's strategy may have the effect of tilting the GOP primaries to far to the right for the Republicans to put up a winning candidate (not that I will complain).
So, Rove has penned in his party, not only policy wise, but ideology wise at a time when flexibility may be needed. The GOP is making a concerted effort to decenteralize the 2006 Congressional race, but Rove's remarks only help the Democrats keep it nationalized.
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