Saturday, August 21, 2010


There's been some hope among those who support the rights of Park51's developers that George W. Bush would step up and express support for those rights -- but, of course, why would he do that when he wants to sell books to the increasingly Fox-ified, teabag-ified, Geller-ified GOP base? And yet he surely has a personal desire to maintain his reputation as a guy who didn't take the low, Muslim-bashing road after 9/11.

And, of course, he's still a dyed-in-the-wool partisan who wants to slip the shiv into Obama and the Democrats in an election year.

What to do?

Well, actually, the answer to that is easy: deploy one of your longtime coat-holders, Karen Hughes, to deploy the shiv for you:

Karen Hughes: Move the New York City mosque, as a sign of unity

... I believe that most Americans who oppose locating a mosque near Ground Zero are neither anti-freedom nor anti-Muslim; they just don't believe it's respectful, given what happened there.

...I believe it is so important that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his congregation make what I fully understand would be a very difficult choice: to locate their mosque elsewhere. Putting the mosque at a different site would demonstrate the uncommon courtesy sometimes required for us to get along in our free and diverse society....

It pains me to say it, but: well played. Those who (sensibly) see Hughes as a Bush surrogate will recognize the assault on Obama and the Democrats for what it is -- Bush choosing to deprive them of the cover he could have provided, as an act of naked politics -- while, technically, Bush's personal record as a bulwark against this kind of thing remains technicallyunblemished.

And it pains me but doesn't surprise me to say: Well played, and played far better than anything the White House has done. But, of course, this is something the president seems never to have learned how to do: deploy surrogates. He chose a running mate he now doesn't trust to make public statements, and who was never suited to the bad cop role in any case. He doesn't deploy adviser or cabinet members or leading party figures or even his wife to say things he shouldn't. When he decided it was time to weigh in this project, he couldn't do it in a shrewd way because he just doesn't do that. So he stood out there alone and announced his position himself -- a brave act, maybe, but an act he seemed to walk back from within a news cycle. So he didn't act shrewdly and he didn't continue to stand up to the assault bravely and on his own. He needed to do one or the other.

Of course, it's hard for Democrats to deploy surrogates because the right-wing noise machine attacks every prominent Democrat all the time, not waiting for a major news event. Obama's attorney general is under constant attack. His Homeland Security secretary is under constant attack. Every Democratic congressional leader is under constant attack.

There are two exceptions these days: the Clintons. They're the only people who've outlasted, outfought, and outmaneuvered the noise machine. If Obama could have sent one of them out to defend the Islamic cultural center, that might have been shrewder than what he did.

But he's effectively on his own now. And the right can move any suitable chess piece against him.

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