It's hard to imagine that if President Clinton (or a president Al Gore or John Kerry) had cut short his vacation to fly back to the White House in order to sign controversial legislation, and three days later network polls showed the legislation to be wildly unpopular, reporters would not have asked, How did the president become so out of touch with the mainstream? Who at the White House is to blame for the fiasco? How is the administration going to recover politically?
There was little or none of that critical analysis in Bush's case. In fact, on Monday, on the heels of the Republicans' first disastrous Schiavo week, the New York Times ran two detailed articles about the state of the White House. One chronicled how "confident," "frisky" and "impishly fun" the president was feeling, and politely avoided any Schiavo references.
Running alongside that article was the umpteenth wet kiss directed toward White House political strategist Karl Rove, in which he was toasted for his mastery of political maneuvering. The article said that Rove was also now micromanaging the president's schedule for political purposes -- "deciding where Mr. Bush and other administration officials go as they crisscross the country trying to win public support." It's safe to assume that Rove played a role in Bush's decision to fly back to the White House to sign the emergency Schiavo bill into law -- a P.R. blunder yet unequaled in Bush's second term. The Times remained obediently silent on that point as well.