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Posted by on Mar 31, 2007 in Politics | 16 comments

Ex-Bush Aide Dowd Says He “Misplaced” Faith In Bush (UPDATED)

Note: This was put up under the wrong byline. Since it’s already on the web we’ll leave it and put the byline under this.

By Joe Gandelman

You know a Presidency is in trouble with former — and trusted — aides begin to break prominently from their former boss. Particularly if they break with the boss in the New York Times.…and that’s what is being pitchforked into the old media and new media news cycles right now:

In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.

A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.

Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

In terms of political significance, this is similar to the watershed moment when it became clear that former Secretary of State Colin Powell and a host of other Bush 41 administration bigwigs were not pleased with George Bush 43. And Dowd’s comments become even more damaging — because he articulates what many independent voters have already concluded (look at the polls) and some Republicans as well:

In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway� mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

That about summarizes the many questions that have arisen over the quality of Bush’s management and his ability to sift through different options and then coolly choose one that seems most effective, rather than starting out with a viewpoint and sticking to it no matter what (note Alberto Gonzales’ continued tenure despite bipartisan sentiment for him to step down).

“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,� he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.�

The Times notes that Dowd is the first member of Bush’s inner circle to “break so publicly with him.” And who does he like now? According to the Times, the only candidate the Dowd (who also worked for California Governor Arnold Swarzenegger) really likes now is Democrat Barack Obama.

And the most DEVASTATING part of the piece is this:

He said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,� arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.

“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have,� Mr. Dowd said. “Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.�

There is a momentum in politics — one that goes beyond the “Big Mo” of primary front-runners….it’s kind of like a Big Mo of history.

It’s a moment that seems to to build at breakneck pace due to policy failures, political missteps, poor media coverage, the isolation of the given politico from members of his/her own party plus the emergence of a common-wisdom media narrative that causes more political allies to discreetly (and later not-so-discreetly) put distance between themselves and the person on the descent.

Dowd’s interview is one more step in the narrative you can call The Isolation Of The President. Bush and his advisers continue to paint opposition and criticism as coming from the Democratic camp. But, in reality, opposition and concern is coming from all quarters now, including his own party and some of his once-closest associates.

So is the political evolution of Dowd for real? Here is a KEY QUOTE:

He said that during his work on the 2006 re-election campaign of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, which had a bipartisan appeal, he began to rethink his approach to elections.

“I think we should design campaigns that appeal not to 51 percent of the people,� he said, “but bring the country together as a whole.�

Perhaps his thinking is increasingly shared by many in the country…

SOME OTHER OPINIONS ON THIS DEVELOPMENT (These are only excerpts so read the entire posts):

The California Majority Report: “Now I don’t wish to shortchange Obama’s unity message, but in all fairness to the president and his ex-strategist, the country has been fairly unified in opposition to his leadership for quite some time. Nevertheless, later is better than never, and Dowd will make a welcome addition to our two-thirds of America.”

TPM Cafe: “Another valiant Republican rejects Bush…too little, too late.”

Lonewacko: “In what might turn out to be an April Fool’s Day joke, the New York Times offers “Ex-Aide Details a Loss of Faith in the President” about former Bush chief campaign strategist Matthew Dowd becoming disenchanted with Our Leader…Of course, there’s the possibility that this is just a Dowd – or even Karl Rove – scheme, with Dowd going to work for a Bush-friendly candidate who’ll reach for the center, with kindness, corporatism, gentleness, corruption, hugs, and massive immigration for all.”

David Kuo: “I know of what he speaks. Even now when I say or write things that are critical of President Bush or the administration it is from a sense of sadness and not from anger. It is the sort of thing I hate doing because it is the sort of thing I simply don’t want to be true. But these things are true and Matthew Dowd deserves nothing but empathy, respect, and credit.”

The Impolitic: “I’ve often wished that we would all live to see the karmic kickback for the remorselessly vile ways that Bush and his minions like Dowd have betrayed us. To see Dowd so frantically trying to distance himself from the administration now leads me to think we may yet see this whole gang of thugs and cutthroats go down in shame and disaster.”

Daily Kos:

Dowd’s disavowal of Bush is likely to strike many as just so much political opportunism–seeing the national tide turning against not only Bush but the kind of vicious, hyperpartisan politics that Dowd helped engineer to get Bush into office, he’s looking at how to save his own political skin and future prospects.

Perhaps so, but he’s burning a lot of bridges to do so and this very public break with this president is significant. What’s more, regardless of motive, Dowd’s right. Our leaders do have to understand what the American people want. And that’s getting us out of Iraq, the sooner the better.

The Gun Toting Liberal: “I have previously argued that Colin Powell’s treacherous actions aiding in the building of consensus, grounded in false realities, for the Iraq Civil War must never be forgiven; however, I praise Mr. Powell’s public chastisement, etc. of Mr. Bush’s current policy. I extend similar, albeit constrained praise, for Mr. Dowd’s entrance into the light.”

The Mongrel Dogs Who Teach:

I suspect a lot of people who voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 are feeling similarly disappointed; I imagine they feel similarly conflicted for similar reasons: They like President Bush, just not his policies. And that’s why things are messed up in America today. People have to stop making world-changing decisions — such as, whom to vote for — based on whether they “likeâ€? the person. It’s a stupid instinct left over from days when your social circle was the other 20 semi-evolved primates with whom you hunted. In an age of nuclear bombs and anthrax postage, it’s outmoded and dangerous….

…..It boggles the mind. It literally boggles the mind. This ancient and useless primate instinct launched us into a war of choice and a simultaneous assault on the very fundamental principles of justice and democracy that constitute this Republic. Why? ‘Cause President Bush was likable. God, please give us someone more awkward but less inept!

Office of the Independent Blogger: “This is a man who became a Republican specifically for George W. Bush. He became a Republican to help him run, he was drawn in by Bush’s pledge to be a cooperative President with Democrats, and I say, If you could be drawn in by something that was so clearly [b.s.], by a man so undeniably dumb, then you deserve the fate you’ve got. It’s only a shame that it’s a fate he gave to the rest of the country, too, for eight years. The curse of George Walker.”

Andrew Sullivan is another person who broke with Bush and he MUST be read IN FULL but here are some of his most important points:

For me, the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the complete lack of planning, and the refusal to budge was the clincher. But Abu Ghraib – and the non-response to Abu Ghraib – made me realize that Bush was a danger to America, not an asset. The Federal Marriage Amendment obviously hit me in the solar plexus as well. It felt like a gratuitously vicious attack on a minority and a violation of conservatism. I knew my relationship with this president was over by the beginning of 2004. Some of us were mocked for backing John Kerry that year, and I can understand the mockery. Kerry? But yes, Bush really was that bad, that incompetent and that dangerous.

…But what strikes me about the more thoughtful Bush alums – Matthew Dowd and David Kuo spring to mind – is their yearning for spiritual atonement. I think that for many the reckoning with these past few years may take longer to arrive. But there will be a wider reckoning. And it won’t be pretty.

Ed Morrissey also has a major post that needs to be read in full because he met Dowd and is unimpressed with this conversion. A short section 4 U:

As much as I like Dowd, and he is a very likable man in person … boo hoo. I can’t believe this Dowd is a grown-up. I think there are plenty of issues on which one can disagree with the Bush administration, but don’t blame the Bush administration for sticking to policies that one has spent most of his term supporting. Bush hasn’t changed direction during his terms in office, and as close as Dowd was to Bush, it’s not like he didn’t understand who Bush is.

So Bush didn’t act as a uniter. Neither did the Democrats, who spent most of the first term calling Bush the “Commander-in-Thief”, constantly undermining his authority. Bush, one should recall, tried reaching across the aisle on legislation like No Child Left Behind and expanded discretionary spending on a wide scale, attempting to find common ground with the Democrats….Dowd engages in one long, petulant rant, consumed by his disappointment at Bush’s failure to change when Dowd changed. I’m sorry for Dowd’s disappointment, but this says much more about Dowd’s emotionalism than it does about the Bush administration..

  • He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

    Are there really still people who don’t realize that the president himself is directly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The legal rationalizations of John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales were tailored to the beliefs of the president – most other American leaders would’ve fired the men on the spot for such nonsense. He embraced their ideas and literally signed off on them.

  • White Agent

    Oh its not just Bush, its the entire neocon inundated republican party.

    Any ideology that arrogantly divides its population on the basis of, “haves and have nots”, and, then oppresses the weaker by limiting opportunity and other acts of common political oppression is nothing other than unspeakable greed.

    You cannot possibly believe that our national and international problems are solely Bush’s fault without considering the ideology that Bush used for advocating, justifying and then enacting these goofy policies? It was certainly neocons, through their now exposed as deficient ideology, that had the mordacity to present George W. Bush to the population of the United States as any kind of a competent leader!

    Its not just Bush, it is neocon republican ideology as a whole!

  • CaseyL

    Well, at least he didn’t wait until he was on his deathbed to repent, like Lee Atwater.

    Other than that… well, let’s see what he does now. If he works to defeat the thieving, brutish slime merchants he helped put into office, then his apology means something.

    If, on the other hand, he goes and works for another Republican, then the apology wasn’t worth the air it took to utter or the paper his cri de coeur was written on.

  • kritter

    If Hillary or Obama do win, it would not make me happy if they led the country in such a ruthlessly partisan way, even if I voted for the winner. Where has this guy been for the past 6 + years? If he felt this way for so long why did he wait to speak up? To make amends, he needs to do more than work for Obama, he should be speaking out about this war that his boss has gotten us mired down in.

    I don’t understand how any leader or members of a party who could feel good by demonizing their opponents, who are after all , loyal Americans just like they are. But that is the political environment in which we live.

  • Lori O’Brien

    You know, it’s amazing how stupid politcians can be. You vote to send them to war and then you wring your hangs, “oh, I didn’t have all the information” oh, “I didn’t have time to read it all”, oh, “I was misled”, oh, “blah blah blah blah”. George Bush will go down in history as the man with a vision, a vision of freedom for all. What you think about him doesn’t matter to me or to him and that is what truly drives liberals nuts, and yes Dowd was a liberal, just like his stupid sister. Grow up. The military is volunteer and they want to finish the job. This Congress is pissing money out its ass, so I figure they might as well piss it towards national secuirty. Limousine Loser Liberals will never ever change. Don’t do as I do, do as I say…. Overgrown teenagers.

  • Tom Paine

    My, but the lefty hyenas are greedily giggling and gobbling their usual carrion over this one.

    To reiterate:

    One: George Bush has freed 50 million people from two of the most murderous governments on earth.

    Two: He has done this at a cost in lives (meaning ours, theirs, AND collateral) that makes this one of the cheapest wars of Liberation America has ever fought.

    Three: Then, instead of simply appointing pro-American dictators, he has spent millions of man-hours and billions of dollars to give those 50 million people a chance at decent consensual governance and decent modern social systems (education, legal, economic, etc.).

    Four: And if he fails, all of those 50 million people will fall back under equally murderous religious fascists — who will likely conduct Cambodian-style genocides in the middle of the world’s most important oil region.

    Bush’s policy represents the highest and best use of American power – notwithstanding its allegedly flawed execution.

    So — how do the endlessly-carping critics intend to maintain these always-ignored gains? And why should anyone believe they mean it?

    BTW: Changing the subject is conceding the point.

  • Rudi

    TP say: wars of Liberation America
    Excuse me Tom, but other than the international con man Chalabi, which native Iraqis asked for Liberation. The Liberation was a quick success, the Occupation is a idealogical, logistical and plotical failure. :9( Love your parroting of the RNC talking points. I wonder what the ghost of Goldwater would say?

  • b

    So some unelected Democrat pollster that used to work for Bush is disappointed in him. Definitely front page news. Who cares what this fickle moron thinks.

  • b

    Rudi wrote: “but other than the international con man Chalabi, which native Iraqis asked for Liberation.”

    Think Kurdistan. DUH!

  • SteveK

    “Limousine Loser Liberals”… “lefty hyenas are greedily giggling and gobbling their usual carrion”

    It looks like Lori O’Briens and Tom Paines “it’s the liberals” pejoratives are as close to a reply to this article as we’ll get from the ‘Bush is Right’ side.

    The points Matthew Dowd makes regarding the actions of George W. Bush are indefensible, so those who consider him infallable will do anything in their attempt to divert public attention… Anything that is, except address the legimate issues and questions raised.

  • White Agent

    Lori says Bush has a “vision”. Truth is Bush has never had an original thought, but this fact was only suspect when “we voted to invade Afghanistan and kill Al Quaida, a mission we never accomplished. I don’t think we ever voted to invade Iraq. The invasion was rushed so fast I really can’t remember. However Lori is right about one thing, the military is indeed voluntary. To bad it can’t do the job.

  • kritter

    “George Bush will go down in history as the man with a vision, a vision of freedom for all.”

    Freedom for all except- enemy combatants, minority voters targeted for investigations of voter fraud, terrorist groups like PETA, government scientists who agree with the prevailing wisdom on global warming, inmates at Abu Ghraib, inmates at Gitmo, wrongly accused and subsequently tortured Canadian citizens, inmates at secret prisons worldwide, victims of genocide in the Sudan, US citizens whose phones were illegally tapped, US citizens who were the subject of the FBI’s wrongful National Security Letters, Democrats.

  • Rudi

    Chalabi is a Shiite with ties to Iran. While many Iraqis fought Saadam from within or Iran, he was convicted for fraud in Jordan. Even the Iraqis neocon who teaches at a US university is admitting to mistakes. Only the Bushinitsas want to glorify someone who couldn’t even succeed in the private world.

  • Morrissey shows once again why I sincerely wonder why Joe thinks anything positive of him. This part of his statement

    Neither did the Democrats, who spent most of the first term calling Bush the “Commander-in-Thief�, constantly undermining his authority.

    is just so massively stupid. Show me, oh captain, where a Democratic Representative or Senator said this. Show me where even a person of authority in the DNC said that. Morrissey is no better than any other Bushista.

  • kritter

    Is Morrissey trying to justify sticking with failed strategies, once it is apparent they are failing? Would Morrisey have kept Rumsfeld?

    Dowd probably knew it would shoot down his credibility in the political world and bring on a firestorm from former political allies, to come out against the man that he helped put into office, but he did it anyway. Maybe his conscience meant more to him than his commitment to the man and the ideology, and I think that should not be denigrated. Morrissey’s comments are crassly political, illogical and immature.

  • I do have to say that Morrissey does look like a genius compared to the conservatives who’ve commented in this thread.

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