Perrspectives - Bringing light to Darkness

Ted Olson and Bush's Maximum Confrontation Strategy

September 12, 2007

Today's New York Times reports that former Solicitor General Ted Olson has emerged as President Bush's leading choice to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. That Bush might tap the controversial Olson, a key player in the 1990's Arkansas project targeting Bill Clinton and the man who helped win the 2000 Florida recount at the Supreme Court, should come as no surprise. It's just another part of George W. Bush's strategy of "maximum confrontation" guiding the remainder of his presidency.
Maximum confrontation serves three purposes for President Bush. First, it is an essential ingredient in preventing Democrats from winning victories of any kind and claiming successes as they head into the 2008 elections. Second, perpetual conflict with the "Democrat" Party, whether over nominees, filibusters or vetoes, helps mobilize the President's hard right base. And last, as Robert Draper's new biography Dead Certain makes clear, the image of the battling, brawling President helps Bush cement his legacy as a man of resolve, unbending in the face of either opposition or reality.
With no reelection campaign to run, no vice president to protect and leading a party whose electoral strategy is to whip up the conservative base while suppressing Democratic and independent voter turnout, Bush will pay no price for his thirst for conflict. (His Republican allies in Congress, however, may be another matter.)
All of which explains the predictable choice of inflammatory nominees like Ted Olson. On the day of Gonzales' resignation, conservative movement godfather Richard Viguerie counseled President Bush, "Confront the Democrats, don't 'reach out' to them as liberal commentators are urging." In his vitriolic statement lamenting Gonzales' departure, Bush appeared to heed Viguerie's advice, decrying the "unfair treatment" that led to Gonzales' being "dragged through the mud for political reasons." Only too happy to resort to recess appointments to ensconce extremist appointees like Kerry Swift Boater turned Ambassador Sam Fox or former UN ambassador John Bolton, President Bush has no intention of accommodating the likes of Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, who reacted to the prospect of an Olson AG pick, "My hope is that the White House would seek some kind of candidate who would be broadly acceptable."
Bush's craving for conflict and endless obstructionism hardly ends with his predilection for in-your-face nominees. As Robert Novak detailed in June, Bush's veto strategy will define the remainder of his term. While Bush withheld his veto pen during a first term featuring a compliant GOP Congress, the President is promising a tidal wave of vetoes from here on out. Blocking stem cell research, federal spending bills, Iraq war benchmarks, expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), and government negotiation of Medicare prescription drug prices are just a few on the threats Bush has issued. His dander (and testosterone) up, a feisty Bush crowed in June:

"If the Democrats want to test us, that's why they give the president the veto."

In the Senate, Bush's Republican allies are working overtime to make sure it doesn't come to that. The same GOP who demanded the "up or down vote" in 2005 is now making unprecedented use of the filibuster to block Democratic initiatives - and victories - at all costs. Republican obstructionism blocked every major Democratic effort to change the course in Iraq and even stalled the Alberto Gonzales no-confidence vote. The Republican commitment to portraying Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as leaders of a do-nothing Congress through the 208 elections ensures that the Democrats will need a filibuster-proof 60 votes to do anything. (President Bush's veto threats raise that bar to 67 votes.) As Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) publicly bragged:

"The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it's working for us."

Even the Iraq debate reflects President Bush's endless appetite for political fireworks. During a 2004 debate with John Kerry, President Bush might as well have been discussing Democrats and not Islamic insurgents when he said, "best way to defeat them is to never waver, to be strong, to use every asset at our disposal, is to constantly stay on the offensive." His only concession to the reality of potential Republican devastation next November is the appearance of withdrawing U.S. troops beginning next summer.
No doubt, if President Bush selects Ted Olson (or someone like him) as his choice for Attorney General, he will ignite a firestorm angry confrontation with Democrats. Which is exactly what he wants.

4 comments on “Ted Olson and Bush's Maximum Confrontation Strategy”

  1. Olson almost certainly had his hands dirty in the US Attorney firing debacle and his law firm is soiled by their intervention in hiring away one of the USA's. Excellent and perspicacious analysis!

  2. Maybe it's just me
    I believe first and foremost we should be giving the Reverend Al Sharpton some dap for bringing Mr. Bill out on the town in his neck of the woods and showing him how the “other” half lives. To his own surprise Mr. Bill really enjoyed himself (daps to him for going in the first place.)
    I believe we are truly taking Mr. Bill O’Reilly’s words out of context. Seems to me we should be celebrating his comments instead of ostracizing him for them. Bill was simply speaking to HIS public, enlightening them on the new facts as well as reminding them that when they do speak again they will have a lot to reconsider. Their weekly meetings will have new topics of discussion on “Black People” now with note of POSITIVE judgment. His peers will actually have, possibly for the first time, something nice to say. More importantly Mr. Bill was admitting to all that his perception of “Black People” was wrong.
    I believe he is saying that he believed that Black People had had it in them all of the time and is more than grateful to be the one to report this to all of the Nay Sayers since he now knows this from experience of his ONE night out dining with Black People.
    I truly believe that Mr. Bill’s comments were simply meant to enlighten his listeners with the facts. He states “Black people are starting to think for themselves” what a milestone in our lives and now the world knows!
    He states “They were not using the words MF when ordering Iced Tea, (doesn’t mean they were not using it when they heard his comment i.e. Bill is a crazy MF isn’t he?)
    He also states he was surprised at their demeanor. Well, trust when I say Black People were surprised at his too (well, some of us were)
    I also believe what Mr. Bill O’Reilly meant to say was (not in his exact words) “I went slumming and came out richer for it”
    Thank you

  3. Actually, this is a very short-sighted strategy, simplistic, and easy to turn. It is a system based on denial, and good old fashioned bullying, assuming the "enemy" has no ability to fight back. Putin, yesterday, referred to the Iraq travesty as a war against the Iraqi people, for oil, and he is right. So truth punctures this bubble, and Bush appears out of touch, impotent, insipid, simple minded.
    It is only with the complicity of the press Bush has achieved any pyrrhic victory. The strategy didn't work, good old fashioned bullying did, ostensibly. Everyone knows how to handle a bully.
    The perception is, essentially, that of Bush as a failure. But he, and his advisers, are oblivious.
    And with every apparent victory, he looks more and more unstable, and the republicans hapless, not interested in the welfare of the republic.
    Bush operates within a very small circle. His, (and that of his people,) his ability to really understand HOW his actions are perceived is critically limited. So you can make him believe one thing, while another is really happening.
    It's not working for him, just as Iraq isn't working for him, just as this strategy has failed horrifically in world diplomatic circles.
    It assumes his "enemies" are morons. They're not. He's being played, in a way he cannot comprehend. All those victories, and yet the Republican party is failing.
    Tsk tsk, such simplicity in a highly complex world.

  4. Another point, Bush has an "in the moment" mentality, not able to see the contingencies of his actions.
    It's not a football season based on individual games, it's an ongoing chess match, and each move is critical.
    SCHIP, though it will most likely be vetoed, or the veto sustained, will not work as a victory for him, in the long run. The republicans fail to see the consequences.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

Follow Us

© 2004 - 
 Perrspectives. All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram