Monday, October 31, 2005

The price of incompetence

Gerald Rellick: 'The price of incompetence'
Posted on Monday, October 31 @ 09:52:57 EST
Gerald Rellick

In 1988 Michael Dukakis ran for the presidency on the theme, "It's all about competence." Dukakis led George H.W. Bush in the polls throughout much of the campaign, but then made the mistake of posing in full gear atop an Army tank as it rumbled along the terrain. It's true that he looked silly, but to any intelligent observer it was just more campaign hokum and high jinx, another uneventful day for reporters on the boring campaign trail. But it didn't play out that way. The media pounced on the event, and the Bush campaign played it for all it was worth, which it turned out was a lot. Yes, there was the Willie Horton ad and CNN's Bernard Shaw's mean-spirited question in the debates about a hypothetical rape of Dukakis's wife, but the tank photo was the death knell of the Dukakis campaign.

Dukakis was wrong: The campaign was not about competence; it was about appearances. He miscalculated the intelligence of the American media and the American public. So, we might ask, was George W. Bush any less foolish looking when he landed on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in full flight gear two months after the start of the Iraq war, pronouncing "Mission Accomplished?" The difference was that Bush's stunt was orchestrated by his chief puppeteer, Karl Rove, who understood very well what the lapdog media was eager to feed on. As hokey as it seemed to many, Bush's photo-op hit the right tone, and by all accounts, was a success.

Karl Rove has by now shown himself to be the Dr. Frankenstein of American politics, and George W. Bush is his monstrous creation. Granted, Rove's miscreant is new and improved compared to Dr. Frankenstein's monster - better looking and without the bolt through his neck, but just as dumb, and possessing the same language skills as the creature who roamed the Transylvania countryside.

But there is a limit to what even Karl Rove can do, and now the Dukakis theme of competence in government is back in vogue and back to haunt Rove's creation as never before. We witnessed this in the now-aborted Harriet Miers nomination. While the extreme right wing was focused on the issue of Roe vs. Wade, more moderate and thoughtful conservatives such as George Will, William Kristol and former Reagan speech writer, Peggy Noonan, were incensed at Bush's obvious cronyism and his disrespect for the stature of the Supreme Court.....