Friday, March 11, 2005

KAREN HUGHES IS COMING BACK as Bush's adviser; and the Bush administration has agreed to support Europe's plan to use economic incentives to persuade Iran not to build nuclear weapons. These are two stories in today's Washington Post (the Iran story is in all the major papers) that are presented as separate news items; but I was struck by the common thread in the two events: an apparent attempt to reshape public opinion in the U.S. and in the rest of the world about Bush's intentions and motivations.

Bush administration insiders (who asked to remain anonymous because Hughes's return has not been officially announced yet) have implied that Hughes will be helping Bush implement his second-term agenda. They said that Hughes will be working independently (no White House office or staff, I presume that means), and that she "will take on a specific and particularly important assignment involving international affairs" -- an assignment about which they would not give any details. What this might be is anyone's guess, but it seems reasonable to assume that it has something to do with Bush's desire to improve his image with Europe and the Arab world so that history will paint him as the president who spread democracy around the globe.

That also appears to be the reason why the U.S. is being so amenable all of a sudden to European ideas on how to deal with Iran.

At the same time, back at home, commentators like Dan Froomkin are saying that Hughes's return is a huge blow to Karl Rove, who has basically had the run of the White House since Hughes made the decision to return to Texas. And perhaps, Froomkin and others say, that is part of the plan. Perhaps the Bushies want to moderate the (accurate) perception that Karl Rove is the unelected ruler who stands behind Bush and manipulates all his policies. OR, maybe the motivation is entirely different. Karl Rove has always been an ideologue whose greatest interest lies in remaking the Republican Party into the sole authoritative voice of U.S. policy, at home and abroad. That being the case, maybe part of Hughes's function is to distract the public gaze away from Rove, so he can continue to transform the political landscape such that the Democratic Party will never be able to exercise power again, even if they should regain the White House.

Whatever the truth is, it will be very interesting to watch how this plays out.

No comments: