After voting in Crawford, Texas, the president returned to Washington Tuesday afternoon.
He was joined for a dinner of corn bisque and beef loin by political strategist Karl Rove, GOP chairman Ken Mehlman, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, counselor to the president Dan Bartlett, former Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Brad Freeman, a California venture capitalist and top Bush fundraiser.
They watched the returns in the study of the residence.
Was that hurled corn bisque and beef loin projectiles? Given Bush's rep for having a bad temper in private, I'd imagine that the words, "What the hell am I paying you people for?" were shouted more than once. In Rove's case, it might be a damned good question.
Putting dirty tricks, smear campaigns, and fearmongering aside, there are a few things that Team Bush should've done. First and foremost would've been to get the Decider to shut the hell up about Iraq. Why Bush hammered away on his weakest point is beyond me. Saying he'd stick with Rummie and Cheney didn't help any either.
Another would've been to worry less about the base and more about independents. Independents went Democrat in huge numbers. The base can only turn close elections, apparently. The GOP needs more.
And what the hell was that thing about Social Security -- who was that for? Bush's Social Security privatization scheme was a public opinion disaster the first time around. Did he really think it got any more popular in the past two years?
As Rove told NPR's Robert Siegel, "Unlike the general public, I'm allowed to see the polls on the individual races and after all, this does come to individual contests between individual candidates... I'm looking at all these, Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math, I'm entitled to the math."
But if Rove was looking at all these polls -- and I have no doubt that he was -- why didn't he see that all of their messages were off-base? With polls showing that the war is the biggest drag, why make it about the war? The math was everybody's math and Rove's math was BS.
I've been running a theory here for a while and it's looking like I was right. Rove's most infamous tactic is attacking opponents' strengths. Kerry was a war hero, so you attack his war record, for example. Gore's a brainiac, so you accuse him of using 'fuzzy math' like a big dope.
But the dems' greatest strength in this election was that they weren't Republicans -- what are you going to do with that? It turns out that one of the biggest guns in the rovian arsenal is also one of the only guns in the rovian arsenal. Faced with a situation that called for new thinking, Rove found himself in the situation so many modern conservatives find themselves in -- not being able to think outside the box. Creative thinking is not a conservative strength, the authoritarian mindset doesn't like coloring outside the lines.
There's probably an inflexibility that all Bushies share -- Rove included. The 'stay the course' mentality. In this case, the course sailed the ship straight off the edge of the world.
So, to Karl Rove, I offer my heartfelt thanks. By doing pretty much everything wrong, you've probably done the greatest good for this nation that you'll do in your life.
Technorati tags: politics; elections; republican; democrat; Iraq; Bush; Karl Rove didn't have any math, let alone the math