The Plank

Losing Sight Of The Forest

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In Sunday's Washington Post, John Solomon and company have a lengthy piece outlining Karl Rove's strategy of deploying federal officials on behalf of Republican candidates in close elections around the country. What's most notable about their account is not so much the unprecedented scale and audacity of the scheme, which have been public knowledge for quite some time, but how painstaking Rove's efforts were in scripting events for even the most minor occasions. It seems, for example, that a federal official was dispatched to Chris Shays's district to present a $23 weather-alert radio to an elementary school. (So that's how Shays managed to survive the Democratic tidal wave in New England!)

Indeed, one of the most remarkable features of the Bush administration is the sharp contrast between its careful, uber-competent management of anything directly pertaining to campaigns and its apparent lack of interest in the details of actually governing. Even assuming the administration's single overriding concern were getting Republicans elected, one would think that self-interest alone would have compelled it to pay as much attention to, say, rebuilding New Orleans or developing a viable Social Security reform plan as it did to coordinating the type of Rube Goldberg campaign apparatus described in the Post article. Wouldn't Rove's time have been better spent trying to fix the circumstances that produced such a miserable macropolitical environment for Republicans in 2006, rather than coming up with a really great system of sending bureaucrats to Greenwich, Louisville, Albuquerque, or wherever?

--Josh Patashnik

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