Thursday, October 20, 2005

Poker and Politics

One of the things I remember in all the write-ups about Bush before the last two Presidential elections were all the quotes about how good a poker player he is. Well, I'm not much of one myself (I pretty much limit myself to play money) but I have learned a couple of rules-of-thumb. One of the best rules, I think, is to stop throwing money in the pot once you're pretty sure you have a losing hand.

I mean, bluffing is fine and all, but it only works if the other players believe you might have the winning hand.

No one who isn't named George W. Bush believes Harriet Miers is a winning hand.

Every day Miers is out there is another round of betting. Every day Bush is putting more credibility in the pot. Bush is going to lose this one. The question is whether at the end he's left with any credibility at all.

My friend Mike would say that Bush didn't have any credibility to start with, but that's a brand of wishful thinking. (Sorry Mike.) Bush won (and had coattails that increased Republican majorities in the House and Senate) because a majority of Americans trusted him more than they trusted Kerry. When Bush loses this fight, it's going to make the bad beat he took on Katrina look like a drop in the bucket.

Personally, I've pretty much reached the point where I no longer have a dog in this fight. The Republican Congress has shown itself to be more prone to fiscal idiocy than the Democrats. To give the Democrats credit, when they spend like drunken sailors they at least have high-minded principals to blame it on. When Republicans do it, they don't even have that fig leaf. I'm sorry, lowering taxes may in fact be a good thing (I think it is), but lowering taxes AND building "bridges to nowhere" looks at best corrupt, at worst corrupt and butt-stupid.

So yeah, if Bush squanders enough credibility to taint his entire party (not that they need much help) it certainly won't make me cry. In his first term he set some Foreign Policy precedents that needed to be set, and the recent election in Iraq (and the massive fall-off in violence during the election in comparison to the previous one) makes me more optimistic that the changes are going to stick. In other words, I'm ready to say that Bush did the job he needed to do, and now it's time to look to the future.

So right now my big complaint would be, can somebody show me a future?

Best case scenario: Bush comes to his senses, withdraws Miers, replaces her with somebody with an actual resume, and moves on. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans continue to self-destruct and the Democrats take over both the Senate and the House in '06. (Maybe then Bush can figure out that veto thing.) Sometime in the near future Cheney retires and Condi Rice becomes Vice President. And in '08 a sane and smart Republican (who is also hot! hot! hot!) runs against a sane and smart Democrat (read: not John Kerry or Howard Dean).

Can these things happen? I think so. It pains me to say it, but the least likely part of that little scenario might be getting the sane and smart Democratic Presidential candidate. The Democratic Primaries amplify all their worst habits of the Party, and the more ripe the Presidency is for plucking, the stronger the amplification. So they wound up last time with the worst possible candidate. And without an incumbent Republican next time, the Democrats will have a golden opportunity to do even worse. (Which, come to think of it, would be to give Kerry the nod again. Hat tip: Karol.)

So getting back to poker, the political scene in Washington resembles the low-stakes play money tables on; lots of bad bets, lots of weird hands falling, lots of trash talking, and damned little sense. I'm hoping that the real players are just sitting back, waiting for the dust to settle, before getting on with the very important business of professional gambling, er, politcs. If not, I just hope the stakes don't go up.


Anonymous Mike said...

I wouldn't say that Bush had "no credibility" -- just no credibility with me! :)

3:40 PM  

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