Once again I delve into the world of media and come up with two pieces of literature , released on the same day, pointing up a conundrum.
The NYT has a column by Thomas Friedman wondering why the Bush Administration left itself without an heir apparent
Meanwhile, over on MSNBC.com (and probably in the latest Newsweek) is a column by Howard Fineman that while peripheral to his talking up of John McCain's 2008 candicacy, alludes to much of the same thing.
If Karl Rove's dream of a new Republican hegemony is to be realized, why does it appear, appear I say, that the choice of the next standard bearer is being left to chance?
I offer a few theories:
1) Call it the "system" theory or "machine" theory of electoral politics. Who the candidate (and his or her opponent as well) is relatively unimportant. This may seem strange considering the cult of personality constructed around Bush and the prominence of Bush's last name. But think about it. If a cult of personality can be constructed around someone who went AWOL during the Vietnam War, and who prior to being elected Texas governor was mostly known for his fortunate placement on various corporate boards and who left several businesses worse off than when he entered them, then what can't the Rove imagery consultants do?
If there is a machine in place to generate votes, to harangue the public with wedge issues, to divert the public's attention from substantive policy issues, but able to produce favorable "analysis" when needed, then again, who the candidate is may not be as important.
This is an analogy that has considerable import in the world of professional sports, especially football, where the success of running backs and quarterbacks in particular is often passed off as being caused by the team or coach's "system". So a political application of this view may not be out of the question.
2) There really is no confusion at all, Rove and W intend for Jeb! to run and to win. The choice of Cheney as VP six years ago enabled W to give the voters an impression that there would be an adult minding the store, while at the same time, helping to ensure that Cheney, because of his health, would not likely run in 2008 (should W win a second term as he did), opening up the electoral field to W's brother to continue the family and party dynasty.
3) Despite all the hooplah about the magical powers of Rove, neither he or his bosses have particularly thought that far ahead. Cheney was selected in 2000 to address that year's deficiencies, nothing more. There was no long term view. If Friedman's befuddlement of why Bush is seemingly giving his successor so many problems to solve is any indication, maybe this theory has some merit.
4) Rove and Bush believe that they need to pick their battles, and the battle for a sucessor is one that would only serve to distract Bush and his lieutenants from other more important, and winnable matters.
5) the lack of an obvious successor allows the president to eventually play kingmaker, forcing potential suitors to line up for the president's support, perhaps winning concessions for the current occupant along the way while maintaining the president's status as party leader for a longer period of time.
Obviously, not all of these theories are mutually exclusive. In some sense, it may be possible that each theory has merit. Given the administration's penchant for seeming to hold contradictory views, this possibility may have even more validity.