Columnists Review Immigration and Resignation
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And we'll pick up on that question of further staff changes with two political analysts, columnist E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome to you both.
Mr. E.J. DIONNE (The Washington Post): Thank you.
Mr. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER (Syndicated columnist): Pleasure to be here.
BLOCK: There is speculation that presidential advisor Karl Rove could be one more to go. He's still under investigation for the leak of Valerie Plame's name. Charles Krauthammer, do you think that might happen?
Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Well, despite the rumors, I don't have an inside pipeline, so I'm guessing like everyone else. There's been a suggestion that he might be moved to head the Republican National Committee, to help basically strategy for the campaign, so I think that would make sense. But I don't see the president doing that. I think Rove has been his political guru now for all these years, a proven success, two presidential elections, and even a midterm. I don't see him dropping him now.
BLOCK: E.J. Dionne, do you?
Mr. DIONNE: A Bush without Rove is like ham without eggs or Merrill without Lynch. It's hard to see it happening. I mean, Rove's future may, of course, hang on whether Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the Plame leak case, gets his indictment or not. It's hard to see Rove leaving, but it's clear that this one step with Andrew Card won't satisfy all the voices demanding somebody who's from the outside to shake things up. Josh Bolten's a very smart guy, but he is not in any way the outsider that might give a new perspective.
BLOCK: And does this leave unanswered the questions that we heard raised in David Greene's piece, low approval ratings, myriad problems, whether it has to do with the war in Iraq or any number of other things? Charles Krauthammer, do you think this is a partial solution?
Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: No. I think this is cosmetics. Look, you need to replace a Chief of Staff every once in a while. Remember, Andy Card had been there for five years, second longest in history. It's an exhausting job, and I read somewhere today that the analogy would be to a starting pitcher. He's in the seventh inning and he's had a bad seventh inning, you know, with Katrina, Harriet Miers and the Dubai Ports fiasco. So he's had a run where I think he did very well early on, especially in the 9/11 days.
But after five years, the man's exhausted, and in a political and a physical sense, and I think this is a move, in fact, perhaps even overdue.
But, you know, the critics who say you have to change the staff and have a shakeup, if they're Democrats, you know that this is rather disingenuous. I saw Chuck Schumer, I think it was, who said, well, this is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They'll never be satisfied with any change until the president himself steps down.
As for Republicans, who are worried about the election at the end of this year, yes, they'd like to see a few changes, but not really for the reasons you think. It's mostly so that the press will be distracted and spend the next three months learning about these new people and writing style section stories on them instead of reporting on the low polls.
BLOCK: E.J. Dionne?
Mr. DIONNE: I think Charles is absolutely right on that last point. You know, Card is one of the true -- few true insiders who did not come out of Bush's Texas crowd. And so Bush loses something by losing that. He was also a practical politician, a practicing politician once upon a time in Massachusetts, of all places, and it wouldn't surprise me if Card the loyalist told Bush that he had to shake things up and he'd be the instrument of that shakeup.
But I don't think Bush's problems are about staffing. There are problems on the ground in Iraq, there are problems in New Orleans, and there's Bush's own problem with the steep loss of trust and confidence. And I don't think a staff shakeup can change that. It can only change the news stories for a while.
Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: I know it makes bad radio, but I agree entirely with that.
BLOCK: Fair enough. I'd like to turn to talking about the deaths of two prominent Republicans from previous administrations. Caspar Weinberger died today at age 88. He served in several positions in the Nixon administration, including Budget Director, and later was Defense Secretary under Ronald Reagan. And, of course, Lyn Nofziger, who died yesterday, Press Secretary and advisor to Ronald Reagan.
Let's talk first about the legacy of Caspar Weinberger. Charles Krauthammer, you first.
Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he's a very interesting figure. He was the author in the old days, it was called the Weinberger doctrine, which was you intervene rarely. He was not an interventionist. He didn't like having America going abroad in search of dragons. But intervene massively. And he actually wrote out a series of points, which was much debated in the mid ‘80s.
And the interesting dynamic here is that historically the Defense Secretaries have been the ones who want to do stuff. And the Secretaries of State were always the ones who were reticent, because they were the ones who had to go abroad and hear all the complaints from allies about American arrogance and unilateralism.
And yet, in the Reagan Administration it was reversed. It was Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense, who was for modesty, if you like, and George Schultz, who was a very aggressive supporter of an expansive foreign policy. And that created a situation unlike most seen in the past. It was very interesting.
But interestingly most of all was that the combination of those two worked in a way that ended up with the great success of the Reagan Administration, which was of course, the smashing of the Soviet empire and the Soviet Union.
BLOCK: There's also the legacy of Iran-Contra, E.J. Weinberger faced felony charges related to the cover-up for the arms for hostages deal. He was pardoned by the first President Bush just before he stood trial.
Mr. DIONNE: Right, and that was always a problem with his legacy. It's funny, I was talking last week about the pardon of Weinberger with someone who had been involved and you can tell the difference in the political times, because before Weinberger's pardon, quietly, a lot of Washington types, including some prominent Democrats, basically sent that signal that, well, if you pardon him, we're not going to make too much noise.
That is now inconceivable. If the President were say to pardon Scooter Libby, if anything ever, if that case, if that case ever came to a conviction, and so I think it's a sign of change, of real change in Washington. But boy that Weinberger doctrine of making sure you have overwhelming force before you fight a war looks pretty good in the light of what's happened in the last couple of years in Iraq.
BLOCK: And Lyn Nofziger, who died yesterday, Charles Krauthammer, what would you say his mark was as advisor to President Reagan?
Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: Well he was a guy who could break the bad news. He was a guy that Reagan trusted. He was a very, very attractive Press Secretary, he knew how to turn a phrase in contrast with, I might say, unfortunately, the run of recent Press Secretaries.
He was colorful, interesting, he had a reputation for always wearing a Mickey Mouse tie at the White House, a statement of sort, a kind of ‘80s statement, if you like. And he'll be missed.
BLOCK: E.J. Dionne, did he set a template for future Press Secretaries?
Mr. DIONNE: Well first of all, I just like crusty, cigar-smoking old-fashioned guy who doesn't have pressed hair or a pressed suit. He once said “I am not a social friend of the Reagans. That's by their choice and by mine. They don't drink enough,” he said.
A Republican I know said this afternoon that Nofziger should not be underestimated as a figure. He took a man's vision, Reagan's vision, and turned it into practical politics. That's quite an achievement.
BLOCK: E.J. Dionne and Charles Krauthammer, good to talk with you both.
Mr. DIONNE: Good to be with you.
Mr. KRAUTHAMMER: A pleasure.
BLOCK: Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
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