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The Bushies have gone so far to the right... (Read 1761 times)


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The Bushies have gone so far to the right...
Jun 8th, 2002 at 1:56am
The Bushies have gone so far to the right that even Andrew Card is worried
Departure of president's closest adviser raises fear that conservative strategist may seize chance to extend his influence

By Julian Borger, The Guardian

In an unusually revealing insight into the Bush White House yesterday, its chief of staff, Andrew Card, expressed concern that the administration was about to swing further to the right with the imminent departure of the president's closest adviser.

Mr Card told Esquire magazine that the absence of Karen Hughes - a pragmatist widely viewed as one of the most powerful women in US political history - would allow the president's conservative political strategist, Karl Rove, to extend his influence.

"The key balance around here has been between Karen and Karl Rove," he said. "That's what I've been doing from the start of this administration. Standing on the middle of the seesaw, with Karen on one side, Karl on the other, trying to keep it in balance. One of them just jumped off."

Since April, when Mrs Hughes announced her decision to leave the White House and go home to Texas next month, there have been signs that Mr Rove has had more of the president's ear, expanding his influence to trade and foreign affairs.

Diplomats in Washington believe that it was Mr Rove, the Republican Machiavelli Mr Bush brought with him from Texas, who persuaded the president to bend his free-trade principles and hand subsidies to US steel and agriculture, to the consternation of Europe and the developing world.

The protectionist measures, however, are likely to win Mr Bush and the Republicans support in key swing states in the Midwest and closely contested steel states such as Pennsylvania.

Mr Rove has also lobbied to maintain the administration's close backing for Israel, on the grounds that it was vital to secure the party's core support among southern conservatives and win over Jewish votes in Florida and California.

State department officials have complained about Mr Rove's burgeoning empire, arguing that foreign policy has become a hostage to domestic polls.

A few rumours circulated in Washington that Mrs Hughes had lost a power struggle with Mr Rove, but a profile of the former television reporter in the July issue of Esquire appears to confirm her insistence that she left for family reasons.

It quotes her husband, Jerry, complaining about life in Washington, where he had been unable to find a job as a lawyer, and worrying about their son, Robert, who had not adapted well to life at an exclusive private school.

But the article also gives the sharpest picture to date of trouble in the White House machinery, which had previously been hidden from view by Mrs Hughes' strict management of the president's image.

The very frankness of the Esquire article suggests Mrs Hughes is already beginning to relax her grip, and that a previously impermeable administration is beginning to leak under pressure.

"Listen, the president's in a state of denial about what Karen's departure will mean, so is the First Lady, and so is Karen herself," Mr Card said.

"The whole balance of the place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush, is gone, simply gone. My biggest concern? Want to know what it is? That the president will lose confidence in the White House staff. Because without her, we'll no longer be able to provide the president with what he needs, what he demands."

The profile depicts Mrs Hughes as the most powerful aide in the White House, talking to the president a dozen times a day, and making countless executive decisions on her own.

Mark McKinnon, Mr Bush's media adviser, said: "There are a hundred decisions he has to make every day, big decisions, with a lot riding on each one. So he'll give 20 of them to Karen to make. He trusts her completely. He trusts her like he trusts no one."

The balance between Mrs Hughes and Mr Rove paralleled a similar equilibrium in the cabinet, between the moderate, multilateralist Colin Powell at the state department and the radical hawk Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.

However, in recent months that contest has swung towards Mr Rumsfeld, who can normally count on the support of Vice President Dick Cheney and, increasingly, of the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

The rise of Mr Rove in the president's innermost circle can only accentuate the rightward tilt in domestic and foreign affairs.

In the Esquire profile, Mr Card agonises over who to promote to counteract the Rove effect. "I'll need designees, people trusted by the president that I can elevate for various needs to balance against Karl," he says.

Dan Bartlett, another Texan import often tipped to fill Mrs Hughes's shoes, is only 30 years old, and is a protege of Mr Rove.

Other candidates mentioned include another political aide, Tucker Eskew; a Cheney adviser, Mary Matalin; the White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer; or a presidential speechwriter, Michael Gerson.

But Mr Card warned: "They are going to have to really step up, but it won't be easy. Karl is a formidable adversary."

Reprinted from The Guardian:
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