From the looks of things, this was supposed to be the beginning of the Summer of Love, Bush White House-style. The president actually sets foot in France; he shakes the hands of surrender-monkeys Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder, and even tells the former that he should stop by the next time he's in the neighborhood. He sits Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas down together, and he -- or Secretary of State Colin Powell, or someone -- gets Sharon to use the word "occupation," which is at least mildly shocking.
When reading news stories about the Democratic presidential hopefuls, and about the Democratic condition generally, I often find myself conducting the Rove test. This is our era's political version of the Rorschach test and consists of one question: What does the information herein look like to the president's guru and amanuensis?
That is to say, is Karl Rove -- whose goal is not merely to re-elect (er, elect) George W. Bush but to realign American politics for the foreseeable future -- nervously bouncing his knee or tapping his fingers as he reads a news item about Democratic goings on? Is he filing it away as something to keep an eye on or assign a minion to monitor? Or is he, as I often dolefully conclude, chortling away?
I swore in something I wrote elsewhere last week that I wasn't going to get angry about George W. Bush's jumpsuit caper, and I'm not. My gut is still telling me that most middle-American swing voters saw the stunt for what it was, and that not a few soccer moms came away vaguely put off by Bush as flyboy. A (that is, yet another) media swoon is not to be confused with public reaction; if it were, Ken Starr would have had Bill Clinton's scalp by late spring of 1998 at the latest.
George W. Bush hopped aboard Air Force One and flew out to New Mexico, Nebraska and kindred pressure-point states to hawk his new tax cuts just days after the administration announced that another plane, this one flying from Baghdad back to the states, would ferry home Task Force 75, the military unit in charge of finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The task force grumpily packed its bags, having scoured the landscape for several weeks and unearthed mostly fertilizer.
I was in Ames, Iowa, in the summer of 1999 for the Republican straw poll. The event is best remembered at this point for the lavish nature of Steve Forbes' hospitality tent, which redefined supply-side economics. Generous portions of lobster were supplied, and while I didn't make it near the teeming feeding troughs, I did get inside the tent, where Debbie Boone supplied the entertainment.