The basic Republican political play from 9-11 to the present is “Propose something plausibly related to national security so bone-headed, unconstitutional, corrupt, or just plain disgusting that Democrats will have to vote against it. Then attack the Democrats for being soft on terrorism.” The Hayden nomination may be another iteration of that play. But times have changed, and I doubt it will work.
Why not? Because the President is now widely unpopular and distrusted.
Not only will that embolden the Democrats; it will prevent the formation of a united front among Republicans. The political payoff — even among conservatives — from distancing yourself from GWB is now too great. (The Dubai Ports World deal is the gift that keeps on giving.)
When Pat Roberts greets a Bush appointment with “I’m not in a position to say that I am for General Hayden and will vote for him,” you know that it isn’t 2003 any more.
As Machiavelli says, you get a reputation as a political genius when your natural disposition happens to fit the demands of the times. When the times change, it’s hard to stop doing what has worked for you in the past and what you were inclined to do in the first place. That may be Rove’s problem, and Bush’s, right now.
And it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.