LOTT vs. ROVE….Today, Trent Lott suggested that maybe Karl Rove should think about stepping down. Lott has nursed a grudge against Rove ever since Rove declined to lend his support during Strom Thurmondgate a couple of years ago, so this is hardly surprising. But what is surprising is that Lott actually picked exactly the right reason for recommending his departure:

Look, he has been very successful, very effective in the political arena….But, you know, how many times has the top political person become also the top policy advisor? Maybe you can make that transition, but it’s a real challenge.

….A lot of political advisors, in fact, most presidents in recent years have a political adviser in the White House. The question is, should they be making, you know, policy decisions? That’s the question you’ve got to evaluate.

That’s exactly right. Presidents all have political gurus who know how to play rough and pander to their base when election season rolls around, but George Bush is the only president who’s put this same guy in his top policy role. That’s fundamentally turned policymaking into a mockery in the Bush White House, converting virtually every question about how to run the country into little more than a crass electoral calculation. Remember what John DiIulio told us three years ago about his experience in the Bush administration:

In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions….There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis.

….The “faith bill”…illustrates the relative lack of substantive concern for policy and administration. I had to beg to get a provision written into the executive orders that would require us to conduct an actual information-gathering effort related to the president’s interest in the policy….and we got less staff help on it than went into any two PR events or such.

So should Rove go? Of course he should. He’s a guy who runs political campaigns and engineers dirty tricks, not a guy who runs a policy shop. It’s long past time for him to go back to what he does best.