As a follow-up to his administration’s not-so-subtle efforts to blame state and local officials in Louisiana for the incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans, the President announced today that he would lead an investigation into “what went wrong and why” on the federal end. This astonishing news raises several interesting questions:1) Does this mean Bush is now going to admit his administration did screw things up, contributing to an avoidable loss of life and untold damage to New Orleans and its people? 2) If so, doesn’t it sorta kinda violate the idea of objective investigations for the chief executive of the erring enterprise to head up the probe?3) Is Bush open to the idea that maybe his friend “Brownie,” whom he praised after the worst screw-ups as having done a “heck of a job,” actually did not do a “heck of a job” after all? 4) And how’s about the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security, the organization that employed and directed ol’ Brownie?5) While Bush hunts high and low for incompetents in his administration, will he leave the most likely suspects in charge of the relief and recovery effort in the Gulf Coast? Is ol’ Brownie, dismissed not long ago from his crushing responsibilities as a show horse enforcement official, the indispensable man in the operation? And insofar as Bush himself raised concerns about the implications of the botched recovery for homeland security, does he really want to keep DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in overall direction of the massive project? This whole thing is incredibly bizarre. The president who has never, ever, in more than four years, admitted a single mistake, and never fired anyone for anything other than the sin of admitting mistakes, is going to investigate his own administration for mistakes that he has yet to admit other than at the highest level of abstraction. Maybe that’s the whole idea: he’ll find someone who admitted a mistake, and blame the mistakes he won’t admit on them. Talking heads will roll.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
You might have missed a potentially significant political story involving a non-candidate for president, so I wrote about it at New York:
One variable in the fraught and complex 2024 presidential election has now been put to rest: Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has announced he will not pursue an independent or “unity ticket” candidacy for president this year, as USA Today reports:
“Manchin made the announcement during a speaking engagement at West Virginia University for his recently created nonprofit group Americans Together, which is aimed at connecting and empowering moderate voices.
“’I will not be seeking a third-party run, I will not be involved in a presidential run,’ Manchin, 76, told the crowd. ‘I will be involved in making sure that we secure a president who has the knowledge, has the function and has the ability to bring this country together.’”
He argued that “the system right now is not set up” for candidates not affiliated with either major political party to win the presidency but said that in the “long game” there could be room to make a third party viable.
Manchin’s vow not to be “involved in a presidential run” seems also to preclude a vice-presidential candidacy, which had seemed a possibility if No Labels, the nonpartisan organization with which Manchin has been closely associated, winds up sponsoring a ticket headed by a Republican. His subsequent comment about the kind of president he wanted to help the country secure could indicate that for all his third-party flirtations and ideological heresies, Manchin might endorse a second term for Joe Biden. He could not possibly have been talking about Donald Trump by referring to a president who had “the ability to bring this country together.”
In any event, Manchin’s decision was good news for his party’s 2024 prospects. There’s likely a ceiling on Trump’s support well short of a popular majority, so it’s a strategic imperative for Biden to corral anti-Trump voters without too much competition from minor candidates, and particularly from a well-known Democrat.
The announcement obviously takes away one option for No Labels, which is reportedly in the process of interviewing potential candidates, even though the group has not formally decided whether to undertake a campaign (it has, however, secured ballot access in 13 states so far).
It also likely means Manchin has run his last campaign. He chose not to run for a third full term in the Senate this year, likely because West Virginia had turned so bright red that even a relatively conservative Democrat would have no real chance of winning, particularly in a presidential-election year. With no electoral base, the 76-year-old former governor will wind up his Senate service and presumably retire to his houseboat. His family already dodged one calamity this year when Manchin’s wife, Gayle, survived a serious car accident. A futile presidential run would not have improved their quality of life.