The New York Times today has a story about Matthew Dowd’s disillusionment with President Bush, in which it characterizes Dowd as the first member of Bush’s inner circle to break publicly with him. Dowd is a familiar figure in Texas politics, having been a Democratic consultant before he joined the Bush team in 1999, ultimately rising to the position of chief strategist for the 2004 campaign. Dowd told the Times that his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public, given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power. “I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” Dowd said. My sentiments exactly.
The Times interview is not the first time Dowd has gone public with his views about the president. Dowd was a contributor to TEXAS MONTHLY’s March cover story in which fifteen scholars and participants wrote about the Bush legacy. “[H]istorians will say George W. Bush missed some real opportunities in the aftermath of 9/11 to call the country to some shared sacrifice, to be a unifier, to bring people together and reestablish community,” he wrote then. The problem was–this is me talking now, not Dowd–that the people with the most influence in the White House, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, wanted a divider, not a unifier. Karl’s agenda has always been the creation of a permanent Republican majority, and he believed that polarization was the best way to achieve it. “There are no undecided voters,” he once told me. “There are only uncommitted voters,” and the techniques of polarization forced them to commit. There’s something else that Karl told me during the Bush governorship that I have thought about a lot recently: “The great thing about Bush is that he decides. It’s more important that a leader makes a decision than what the decision is.” That wasn’t right either.