Magazine article The American Prospect

Regrets, They're Had a Few

Magazine article The American Prospect

Regrets, They're Had a Few

Article excerpt

AS GOOD AMERICAN CONSUMERS, WE'VE ALL LIKELY experienced buyer's remorse. But in 2007, seller's remorse--not to mention smearer's remorse--seems a special attribute of Republican campaign operatives and funders.

In mid-February, The New York Times reported that the architects of the Destroy-the-Clintons-by-All-Means-Possible operation of the 1990s had thought it over and concluded, well, that they'd been wrong. Richard Mellon Scaife, the gazillionaire who spent over $2 million publicizing the Clintons' involvement, however fictitious, in drug running, murder, and scandalous land deals, apparently now wants to take it all back. "Both of us have had a rethinking," Christopher Ruddy, Scaife's ace investigator, told the Times. "[Bill] Clinton wasn't such a bad president. In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today."

Not to be outdone, Matthew Dowd, a campaign strategist for George W. Bush in 2000 and the chief strategist in 2004, told the Times in April that Bush's entire approach to governing was wrong, and that in hindsight, John Kerry had been right in calling for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq. Citing Bush's failure to fire Donald Rumsfeld when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, his refusal to meet with Cindy Sheehan, and his recess appointment of John Bolton as UN ambassador, Dowd complained that the president wasn't really interested in seeking consensus with the Democrats. Now he tells us!


It's all a bit reminiscent of what was quite literally the deathbed conversion of Karl Rove's mentor and W.'s great friend Lee Atwater, the legendary South Carolina GOP operative and smearmeister who ran Poppy Bush's successful 1988 campaign, where his piece de resistance was the Willie Horton ad. It was just one in a series of notorious Atwater hits, dating back to a Carolina congressional campaign where he attacked the Democratic candidate for suffering bouts of depression while a teen. In 1990, however, Atwater was diagnosed with a brain tumor (he died a year later), converted to Catholicism, apologized to Michael Dukakis and that Democratic House candidate, and wrote in Life magazine that "what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood."

Of course, Republicans could dispense with this repent-apalooza if they simply ran straight-up campaigns based on the merits of their candidates. Then again, when you look at their '08 presidential field ...


Let's ponder the rise of Fred Thompson, former GOP senator from Tennessee and current DA on Law & Order. Thompson entered the presidential field as a possible contender with 12 percent support (third place) in a March poll that showed Rudy Giuliani's support dropping by a similar amount--suggesting that Republicans are looking for a New York prosecutor who's a little more stable than Rudy. Thompson also has demonstrable crossover potential: With a southern accent and conservative politics, he still managed to win election in deep-blue Manhattan--on television, anyway.

Those not convinced could look to Tommy Thompson, who announced his candidacy during the Fred Thompson surge, obviously hoping to win the Thompson-confusion vote. Then there's Mitt Romney, who, according to his first-quarter fundraising totals, apparently can claim a larger number of campaign contributors than people who actually want to vote for him.

Perhaps the party could use a bit of the old Lee Atwater after all.


On April 5, the Pentagon declassified an inspector general's report reconfirming the absence of direct ties between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda prior to the U. …

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