A White House Concession of Wrongdoing! Amazing...
Lost in all the hubbub over the very public resignation and dismissal of Scott McClellan--and good riddance--and his possible replacement by Fox News hack Tony Snow, is the much bigger story of Josh Bolten's Big Shakeup: the demotion of Karl Rove.
As we all know, Karl Rove is a cunning and conniving sociopath who knows how to play politics to win elections. He fights dirty, even illegally; he spreads rumors; he plays against his opponents' greatest strengths.
But, like most Republicans, he can't govern. As a policy-maker, he's a walking disaster--and even Republicans know that, and have known it for a while. But no one has had the guts to cross Karl Rove--until now.
As the New York Times piece says,
But some Republicans in Washington also saw the change in Mr. Rove's responsibilities as a step down in stature for him and an acknowledgment by the president of the White House policy failures in the second term. Mr. Rove, who was Mr. Bush's chief political adviser in the first term, always saw himself as more substantive than a mere political operator, and after his role in re-electing Mr. Bush in 2004, he was rewarded with the additional policy position.
This is an extraordinary development. It marks the FIRST TIME that I can recall that the GOP has actually made ANY move, for the last 5 years, that has anything to do with attempting to improve policy rather than politics as a means of courting public opinion.
It means, in short, that the GOP is aware of their own image in the eyes of the American public as utterly incompetent. And that these rubber-stamp Republicans have finally had the cojones to stand up their chief executive and say: ENOUGH. And that the executive finally listened and buckled under.
Chuck Schumer said it perfectly:
"The White House has never separated politics from policy and that's been one of the reasons for its undoing," Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. "Late is better than never, but the key for the White House will be getting a new person in charge of policy independent from Karl Rove who understands that policy is not simply politics."
Amen. And that's a very, very big deal--one that we haven't emphasized enough.
But what of his replacement, Joel Kaplan?
Well, according to the White House website, Kaplan is a scary figure:
Joel D. Kaplan was sworn in as the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget on August 12, 2003.
From January 2001 through July of 2003, Mr. Kaplan served as Special Assistant to the President in the Office of the Chief of Staff, where he assisted in the coordination, development, and implementation of Administration policy. In this role, Mr. Kaplan focused on a wide range of issues including international economic affairs, homeland security, energy, and transportation.
Prior to joining the White House in January 2001, Mr. Kaplan worked as a policy advisor to the Bush-Cheney Presidential campaign in Austin, Texas. Earlier, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court of the United States, and for the Honorable J. Michael Luttig, United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
A native of Massachusetts, Mr. Kaplan received his bachelor's degree from Harvard College and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Following his education, Mr. Kaplan served for four years as an Artillery Officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Supposedly, Kaplan's promotion is the sign of "stability amidst change".
As a further sign of stability amidst change, White House insiders predicted that Bolten’s successor will be his deputy, Joel Kaplan — a veteran of both the Marine Corps and Bolten’s policy shops in Austin and the West Wing.
But I don't believe it. Kaplan is a devotee of Luttig and Scalia; his policy positions are going to come from the farthest right, and be for the farthest right. So look out below.
But that, too, is good for us. If anything, Kaplan's influence will be to come out in the open with conservative policies, absent the political calculations of Karl Rove.
And since conservative policies are inherently unpopular, the more honest they are about them, the better off we are.
In short, there is great reason to rejoice for Democrats today:
a) The GOP basically admitted that they have been too interested in politics and not enough in policy;
b) They had enough of a revolt to get Karl Rove demoted; and
c) It's likely that their new director will be more honest and upfront about promoting their unpopular policies.
And that's a trifecta to cheer about.