BUSH AND POLITICS….Neal Gabler has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today that describes the Bush administration pretty well:

In his administration, politics seem less a means to policy than policy is a means to politics. Its goal is not to further the conservative revolution as advertised. The presidency’s real goal is to disable the Democratic opposition, once and for all.

This has become a presidential mission partly by default. Bush came to the presidency with no commanding ideology, no grand crusade. He was in league with conservatives, but he was no fire-breather. For him, conservatism seemed a convenience ? the only path to the Republican nomination. One is hard-pressed to think of a single position Bush took during the 2000 campaign, save for his tax cuts, much less a full program.

I don’t expect Gabler’s argument to mean anything to Bush supporters, of course, but I’ve felt this way about Bush almost from the beginning. He’s a furious political animal who is uninterested in compromise and whose main goal is to defeat his enemies, not advance a cause. Ideology is actually secondary, and is useful mainly as a way to batter his political opposites.

Although this has been evident in a number of battles, nowhere was it more striking than in the runup to the Iraq war. From the very beginning, it was clear that Bush wasn’t trying to build bipartisan support, the normal course for a president embarking on a foreign war, but was using it as a partisan club and a campaign issue, a way of dividing the Democrats and making them look weak on national security. It’s true that it’s been a while since politics truly stopped at the water’s edge, but Bush has well and truly put that particular political maxim to bed once and for all.

The 2004 election is going to be one of the nastiest on record, I think. I hope the Democratic nominee is up to it.