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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Taking the Bait

I don’t share the WaPo Hatred of some folks in the progressive blogosphere, partially because I don’t think hundreds of thousands of votes move towards the GOP upon every Fred Hiatt editorial, and partially because I grew up reading some really bad newspapers and appreciate the Post‘s general excellence.But I was bemused today at how totally the Post’s editors seem to have bought the “Fall of Rove/Major Shakeup” line about yesterday’s White House personnel announcements. “ROVE GIVES UP POLICY POST IN SHAKE-UP” screamed the banner in the print edition, with the subhed reading: “McClellan Resigns; New Chief of Staff Moves Quickly To Change West Wing.” Such drama! Such dynamism! Such aggressive steps by W.’s team to turn things around! The Post even managed to display a photo of Rove and McClellan–fellow losers in the “shake-up”–dismounting a plane in Alabama, with ol’ Karl looking mighty unhappy at his Paradise Lost-style expulsion from the sandbox of policymaking.I guess I wasn’t the only one who hooted in derision at the Post‘s bait-taking; if you look at the WaPo web page as of mid-day, the breathless tale of Josh Bolten striding like a colossus across the Washington landscape has been demoted to a minor sidebar to a more jaundiced analysis by Dan Balz.Actually, the Post identified the most tangible impact of the “shake-up” in yesterday’s edition, in a Business Section piece by Paul Blustein about U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman’s sudden shift from USTR to OMB:

By switching his chief trade negotiator yesterday, President Bush sent a gloomy signal to many trade experts and policymakers about the prospects for achieving significant gains in trade talks with foreign countries anytime soon….[T]he personnel change comes as global trade negotiations are in serious trouble, with a major deadline just weeks away. The loss of Portman leaves the talks without a chief U.S. negotiator whose genial manner, combined with his political skill and mastery of detail, has impressed counterparts from other nations.

To put it more bluntly, as a knowledgeable colleague of mine did this morning: “This means the Bush administration has shut down trade policy for the foreseeable future.”And for what? Well, according to Robert Novak’s column today, it’s all about getting a budget through the rebellious House Republican Caucus. Quoth the Prince of Darkness:

Control of the budget is necessary for Republicans to restore credibility, as signaled by the appointment of the highly regarded Rob Portman as budget director. Indeed, passing a budget will be Portman’s first task.

The funny thing about this story-line is that the current budget mess developed and blew up on the watch at OMB of the very Josh Bolten who is now being described as the administration’s new mover-and-shaker. Thus goes the latest game of musical chairs in Bushland.

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