Karl Rove's latest attempt to make Hillary Clinton's health and age an issue in her campaign, or non-campaign, for president was buffoonish and embarrassing for Rove, but it was also probably not very effective. Although voters have a right to know these things about a candidate who would be 69 years old on inauguration day, and who had a head injury not that long ago, the corollary that it helps the Republicans to have Rove raise them in such a way, is not true. It also demonstrates that Clinton is a truly unusual, and increasingly lucky, politician.
The news that a large ice shelf in Antarctica has begun to collapse may not be as important as Karl Rove's opinion of Hillary Clinton's glasses, or Timothy Geithner's descriptions of the early years of Barack Obama's presidency, but it should still not be ignored entirely. Although there are still some, including unfortunately powerful government officials like Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl), who do not recognize the import, or indeed reality, of global climate change, and the role of human activity in that, climate change can no longer be ignored.
This is not just an observation about why Romney lost in 2012, but explains what has happened to a party where certainty and partisan inflexibility have not only become more important than governing or problem solving, but have been elevated as values that trump analytical rigor our sound strategic thinking. The Republican Party has become one where certainty and faith are among the most cherished values of both the leadership and the base. The same is true of the Democratic Party, but to a much smaller degree. President Obama's almost freakish commitment to the concept of consequence, for example, stands in stark contrast to his predecessor's incessant boasting about his certainty. The leap between being surprised on Election Night in 2012 and believing climate change is a hoax is not that big. In both cases, eschewing scientific approaches leads to fundamental misunderstandings of reality. In 2012 it helped cost Mitt Romney the presidency. In the policy arena the consequences for the anti-science approach could be much higher.
In the last few weeks, the buzz about the internal battles inside the Republican Party has been growing. The Roveites hate the Libertarians, the Libertarians hate the mainstream Republicans, the mainstream Republicans hate the Tea Partiers and everybody hates President Obama. It feels more like a Tom Lehrer song than the plight of a serious political party facing a serious struggle.
This has been a difficult election season for Fox News. Among the most enduring media images of the last few days of the election are Karl Rove late on election night angrily denying that Ohio, and thus the presidency, had gone to President Obama, and Dick Morris only a few days before the election confidently predicting a Romney landslide. Morris later tried to explain away his mistake after the election by claiming he had done it to create enthusiasm among Republican voters. The incidents involving Rove and Morris, both of whom work as both commentators on Fox and political consultants to conservative clients, are obviously embarrassing for Fox, but also raise the question of whether the network has outlived its value, even to the Republican Party.
Perhaps Bush hopes or believes that at least for the foreseeable future, scholars and others will borrow a line from the former Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai who when asked, in the late 20th century, what he thought of the French Revolution said it was too early to tell. Perhaps Bush believes that, as the now back in fashion economist John Maynard Keynes wrote more than eighty years ago, "in the long run we are all dead." More likely, as a baseball fan, Bush is placing his faith in the frozen ice ball theory. This theory, alternately attributed to one of two left-handed pitchers from the 1970s, Bill Lee or Tug McGraw, is essentially that in millions of years the sun will go supernova, the earth will turn into a frozen ice ball and nobody will care what Reggie Jackson, Tony Perez or anybody else did against Tug McGraw or Bill Lee with two men on in the World Series. It is probably true that several million years from now, nobody will be around to care about how bad a president George W. Bush was, but I wouldn't want to hang my legacy on that.