|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.
A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.
Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.
In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.
He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.
“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.”
In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.
He said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, 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.
Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.
In the last several years, as he has gradually broken his ties with the Bush camp, one of Mr. Dowd’s premature twin daughters died, he was divorced, and he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic. Mr. Dowd said he had become so disillusioned with the war that he had considered joining street demonstrations against it, but that his continued personal affection for the president had kept him from joining protests whose anti-Bush fervor is so central.