Based on the recent appointments of the two most powerful staff positions in the White House, and on various statements, it would appear that the White House is descending deeper into the bunker in anticipation of the expected shift in congressional majorities next year.
The selection of Pete Rouse for chief of staff and Tom Donilon for national security adviser are both in-house promotions. Moving deputies up to principal rank is more typically seen in the seventh and eighth years of a White House administration -- when an administration often has lost its instinct for innovation and creative responses to changing events.
Moreover, in each case, a senior figure is being replaced with a staffer. Rahm Emanuel was both an elected congressman and in the senior leadership of the Democratic House when he became chief of staff. Gen. James Jones had been Supreme Allied Commander Europe and four-star commandant of the Marines before becoming national security adviser last year.
Donilon and Rouse -- both with good careers as staffers -- have never held a principal position. They may well rise to the occasion -- even as Jones seemed to descend at his White House occasion-but they start in the hole as major political forces in their own rights. Worse, they are both known as political Mr. Fix-its, rather than serious policy players -- more suited for executing presidential orders than helping the president see and move toward different strategic visions of his presidency.
Evidence of this emerging bunker mentality was compounded when the president said on a radio show last week that if the GOP wins in November, it will be hand to hand combat next year.
We saw last year that the President did not flinch in the face of strong (60 percent-40 percent) public opposition to his health bill. Never before had major social legislation -- Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, voting rights, welfare reform -- been passed without strong public support.
Although I obviously disagree with his policy positions, I find the president's unflinching attitude personally admirable. Ronald Reagan stuck with his Central America war policy although it never was supported by more than 40 some percent of the public (and often only a quarter). But there will be serious consequences if a presidency, on a sustained basis, ignores public opinion.
President Obama doesn't need to triangulate and cave on his convictions across the board as Bill Clinton did after the 1994 election. But if the people speak as loudly as both parties' operatives currently expect, and the administration goes into hand-to-hand combat mode, that is likely to be good for neither the administration nor the country.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.