George W. Bushs senior advisors, frantic over what to do about the Presidents plummeting approval numbers, argued over conflicting strategies. The Presidents attempt to use Veterans Day as a rallying cry for his war in Iraq, fell flat on a skeptical public and attempts to paint Democratic Congressman John Murtha, an honored Vietnam war veteran, as unpatriotic brought disapproval.
In conversations with White House aides, GOP advisors and others close to the Bush administration, all of whom insist on anonymity for fear of retaliation from a President who views such actions as treason, a portrait of a White House torn by turf battles and finger pointing emerges. Yet, amid all this debate, a classic case of good cop/bad cop political strategy emerged.
Presidential Chief of Staff Andrew Card, considered one of the saner voices within the administration, argued against attacking Murtha or other planned attempts by Presidential political guru Karl Rove to paint Democrats as cowards for opposing the war in Iraq.
The plan angered Rove who never wants the President to admit error.
Admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness, Rove argued. The only thing George W. Bush has left at this point is his leadership, his steadfastness, his resolve. You cant weaken that with a we were wrong strategy.
Weve tried that, Card shot back. It didnt work.
Rove argued that the plan would work if the White House didnt quit changing strategy every time new poll numbers came in.
Bush, forced to choose between conflicting plans from two trusted aides, decided to give Cards idea a try. His first speech met with lukewarm views but his poll numbers showed a slight bump. So the White House booked more speeches with Bush showing determination mixed with just enough admission of error.
But Bush was not ready to let the Democrats off for daring to oppose him on Iraq. He told Rove to find another venue to attack opponents of the war so Rove trotted over to 310 First Street SE, home of the Republican National Committee, and pitched an inflammatory web site ad that showed Democrats slinking away in surrender.
Called Retreat and Defeat, the ad shows Democrats waving the white flag on Iraq and has brought instant condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is equally outraged:
I don't think it's appropriate. Howard Dean is wrong when he says we can't win. It doesn't mean he's not a patriot. John Kerry wants to cut the force by two-thirds. I think he's wrong, but it doesn't mean he's not a patriot, Graham says.