Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Monday, April 05, 2004


Apart from wardrobe-related jabs at Wonkette and Electablog, the re-appearance of Karen Hughes on the political scene has drawn remarkably little comment. Even Liberal Oasis, which normally offers a thorough rundown of the Sunday gabfest, payed her no mind, instead concentrating -- perhaps understandably -- on some of Tom Kean's more mindbending remarks on Meet The Press (e.g., the statement, regarding the joint Bush/Cheney appearance before the 9/11 Commission, that "we didn't see any problem, really." Really, Mr. Kean? But we digress...).

Trust me on this: Democrats can ignore Karen Hughes only at their peril. The girl is one smart operator, whether you like her or not. And what she's doing right now is smart -- and dangerous.

For starters, she is less vulnerable on credibility issues than most of the Bush team, precisely because she conveniently removed herself from the Administration just before the run up to the war in Iraq. If you recall, she announced her retirement in April 2002 and was back home in Texas by the end of July, well before Andy Card could roll the "new product" that has now killed well over 600 of our soldiers. This spares her from the embarrassing trail of distortions and outright lies, at least on the subject of Iraq, that dogs nearly everyone else on the Bush team.

In turn, what the book, and the book tour, does is bolster this credibility advantage-- at least with a highly desirable segment of the electorate. The technique is simple: first, get them to trust you; then, and only then, do you ask for their votes. No need to flack too hard just yet, Karen, just get out there and bond with the voters. If the reader reviews on Amazon are any indication, her I'm-just-a-working-mom schtick is already working: See gals, look how I juggle; here I am, squeezin' tomatoes in the grocery story while I'm on a conference call with Condi.... (Gag.)

The White House does quite well by this act. They get a lot of media attention, for one of their finest spinmeisters, under the auspices of a book tour -- at the publisher's expense. Wouldn't want to waste that $170 Million war chest just yet, now, would we? Only in August, just before the convention, does Ms. Hughes join the campaign payroll. Lovely.

And -- funny thing about this -- the timing appears to be no accident. The White House, which was so eager to criticize Richard Clarke's timing, doesn't appear to be complaining now.

The tricky question is what to do about Ms. Hughes. Mirroring the shameless ad hominem attacks used against Clarke is probably not the best strategy -- but pulling back the veil on her all-too-obvious manipulation may help.


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