Forget Bush-Cheney ’04. For Republicans with their eyes on the future, the main event at the Republican National Convention is Fratricide ’08.
With a mixture of concern and delight, Republicans are looking ahead to the struggle for succession in a party whose identity crisis has escalated even as its grip on the government has tightened. Republicans control the House, the Senate and the Presidency, but their program and values-Christian or libertarian, tax-cutters or big spenders, neocon or paleocon-remain contested.
Much of this uncertainty stems from a quirk of the Bush administration: George W. Bush has no clear successor. His Vice President, Dick Cheney, is 63 years old and has a history of heart problems.
“The rules for 2008 were established when we put the guy with a bad heart on as Vice President,” said conservative strategist Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. Mr. Cheney’s health means that nobody is threatened by this ticket, as Hillary Clinton is threatened by Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards. But it also leaves wide open the field to succeed Mr. Bush, win or lose, as the Republican nominee.
The President hasn’t clearly identified a protégé or favorite in the party, and installing brother Jeb would be considered a bit tacky. So the New York gala will mark the moment when contenders for the next Republican nomination begin in earnest-hosting the right parties, meeting the right money men and scouting out the right hired guns for a Presidential bid.
The likely contenders in a 2008 primary, surprisingly, skew left. The stars are party mavericks like Arizona Senator John McCain and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The governors of two big blue states, New York and Massachusetts, also seem to be testing the waters. And three of those unorthodox Republicans-Mr. McCain, Mr. Giuliani and New York Governor George Pataki-will have a chance to impress the party faithful with prime-time convention speaking slots.
But the conservatives who now control the White House have no comparable champion. When former Bush speechwriter David Frum cooked up a list of contenders last January, Colorado Governor Bill Owens was the only true conservative on the list, and he’s untested on a national stage. More than a year ago, Bush advisor Karl Rove was rumored to be set on Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, a doctor, anti-AIDS crusader, good soldier and reliable member of the Republican establishment. But Dr. Frist has now been tested, and he’s stumbled since Mr. Rove helped install him as Senate Majority Leader at the end of 2002. The chatter at his planned Wednesday night AIDS Charity after-party (odd combination, but never mind) will be more about recovery than coronation.
All this uncertainty, writes conservative commentator and onetime Presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, can only mean one thing: A “civil war is going to break out inside the Republican Party along the old trench lines of the Goldwater-Rockefeller wars of the 1960s, a war for the heart and soul and future of the party for the new century.”
But other observers say there are two ways this can go. If Mr. Bush wins re-election, the struggle for succession will play out in the form of a court drama. The markers for success and failure in the first two years of the second Bush administration could be subtle: Who does Mr. Rove whisper he’s likely to work for? Who’s standing next to the President in the Rose Garden? Or they could be obvious: Who is Mr. Cheney’s surprise replacement?
But if Mr. Bush loses on Nov. 2, the blood starts flowing the next day.
“If Bush wins, you’ll see a decent Republican field with a lot of the usual suspects,” said Republican consultant Rick Davis, who has worked for Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain. “If Bush loses, you’re going to see every damn Congressman and his brother out there. You’re going to see the circular firing squad.”
Generally, adherents to good old-fashioned conservative principles (lower taxes! military strength! family values-when they’re popular!), the Loyalists are also true believers in the Bush dynasty. They’ll be busy defending what they’ve built against insurgents within the party for a long time after the balloons drop on George W. Bush on Sept. 2.
Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee: One of the leading contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008, those who know what conventions are really all about say this one is all about him. Dr. Frist values Christ’s example of humility so much that he once climbed the Mount of Olives to recite the Sermon on the Mount. That quality will stand him in good stead as he courts the rank and file of his party aggressively at the convention. As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Dr. Frist oversaw a successful effort to gain control of the Senate in the midterm elections-the first time a sitting President’s party had ever done so. The Loyalists aren’t likely to let other Republicans forget that feat.
Governor Bill Owens of Colorado: Named “the best governor in America” by the National Review and “one of the top 10 rising political stars” by columnist Robert Novak, since 1998 he’s pushed conservative policies and values such as tort reform, tax cuts and the sanctity of marriage and the family-although he separated from his wife last year.
Governor Jeb Bush of Florida: Once he was the first among Bush brothers, the one thought most likely to follow in his father’s footsteps. Presiding over his ne’er-do-well brother’s Florida triumph in 2000 may have been bittersweet, but his bid to extend his father’s dynasty in 2008 is now stronger than ever.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao: The Labor Department may not seem like the place to get noticed in the Bush administration (reportedly, nobody remembered to tell Ms. Chao that the Sept. 11 attacks were underway), but the first Asian-American woman ever appointed to the cabinet wields substantial power through her marriage to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority whip.
Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina: Defeated by Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for First Lady in 1996, Bob Dole’s spouse joined Ms. Clinton in the Senate in 2002, elected largely due to her name recognition. As Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Transportation, she was credited with pushing for the installation of a third brake light in automobiles. She was also Secretary of Labor for the first President Bush (take heart, Ms. Chao!) and has been spotted on the Senate floor in dark glasses, apparently protecting her youthful looks for the 2008 Presidential campaign.
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert: Best known as “That Guy Who’s Not Newt Gingrich,” the former high-school wrestling coach has a modest manner that belies his strategic smarts. This allows him to push his agenda as Speaker of the House where Mr. Gingrich could not. Conservative on social positions (anti-abortion, pro–death penalty), Mr. Hastert is known for his consensus-building skills and pragmatism.
Representative Katherine Harris of Florida: The former Secretary of State of Florida parlayed her fame as the lacquer-faced villainess of the disputed 2000 election (think Natasha to Jeb’s Boris) into a Congressional seat in 2002.
Ed Gillespie: The powerful chair of the Republican National Committee, Mr. Gillespie once was a lobbyist for clients like Enron and Tyson Foods (who were accused of smuggling illegal immigrants to work at their poultry plants for paltry wages). The convention is his baby elephant-but will the message it sends now still be ringing in the ears of voters in 2008?
Karl Rove: Known as “Bush’s brain,” Mr. Rove is the true strategist of the Bush White House and Dubya’s political career, transforming Mr. Bush from a failed oilman into a successful candidate. After all, Mr. Rove learned his stuff at the feet of Lee Atwater, the infamous trickster who turned Daddy Bush’s fortunes around and managed Mr. Rove’s campaign for president of the College Republicans. Rumored to be pulling strings for Bill Frist’s Presidential ambitions after this election, Mr. Rove has worked his magic on the campaigns of over 75 Republican politicos in statewide and federal races, as well as for the Moderate Party of Sweden.
Karen Hughes: Bush’s most trusted advisor-slash-enforcer, Ms. Hughes left the White House saying that she wanted to spend more time with her family. Ahem! We’ve heard that one before. But then she went on a nationwide book tour to tell the real story of why she left the White House-to spend more time with her family. Live to fight another day!
THE HIGH PRIESTS
Supporters of bans on abortion and gay marriage, the “God, gays and guns” Republicans will be a strange sight in New York City. But as the mobilizers of perhaps the most effective grass-roots campaign in recent political history, they won’t soon be forgotten. In fact, remarking upon the fact that practicing Methodist and non-drinking W. had taken the White House, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed declared: “You’re no longer throwing rocks at the building, you’re in the building.”
Attorney General John Ashcroft: The biggest favor that Mr. Bush granted the Religious Right-and the anti-religious left-was to nominate the Crisco-anointed, patriotic-anthem-singing Mr. Ashcroft as Attorney General. Through his efforts to cover up the shiny metal breasts of the Lady Justice statue as well as his promulgation of the Patriot Act, Mr. Ashcroft has become a ready-made symbol of everything that’s right or wrong with the Bush administration, depending on one’s persuasion. And it places him-for better and for worse-at the center of the party’s contest for redefinition.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay: Mr. DeLay picked up two things while running an exterminating company: a contempt for federal regulations and a knack for dealing death. Both came in handy when he reportedly roped in the F.A.A. to help track down wayward Texas Democrats so the state’s Republican majority could implement a DDT-laced midterm redistricting plan.
Jerry Falwell: The founder of Liberty University and foe of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is giving the opening prayer at the convention.
Senator Rick Santorum: The Pennsylvania Senator, who spanked his more liberal Republican flank when he equated homosexuality with bestiality, gets the Christian Coalition’s highest ratings. His right-to-life convictions extend to keeping a picture of a miscarried Santorum fetus in his office as a family photo.
Senator Sam Brownback: The publicity-savvy Kansan has been known to pass the time in Senate hearings by autographing photos of himself.
To red-meat-chomping conservatives in the heartland, RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only) are considered to the left of most Democrats. Either out of political expediency or through prolonged exposure to Chardonnay-sipping liberals at cocktail parties, they are fiscally conservative but socially tolerant with their pro-choice, pro-gay-rights positions. Sometimes they’re even willing to expand government social services. In New York, they’re on their home turf.
Governor George Pataki: His staff has been swatting away rumors that he’s using the convention as a testing ground for an ’08 Presidential bid of his own. But what better place to do it? It’s his party: New reports show the city stands to lose-not gain-some $300 million throwing it. And the party must owe him something by now for his long-suffering loyalty.
Rudolph Giuliani: The face of official bravery on Sept. 11, Mr. Giuliani served W. his first draught of gravitas at Ground Zero, and the bunker-hunkered administration has been drunk on it ever since. Is that Rudy they’re seeing in ’08, or is it just beer goggles?
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: This time around, he’s getting the check. But it’s a hell of an initiation into the national party, if he can take the hazing.
Arizona Senator John McCain: The phosphorescent-haired veteran is the Republican liberal Democrats love to love. Sweet-talking New York’s media elite aboard his Straight Talk Express bus during the 2000 Presidential primary, the former Vietnam P.O.W. has defended John Kerry from attacks on his combat record. But his testy relationship with W. has survived more than that-including a virulent rumor he was contemplating the second spot on the Kerry ticket. That back-slapping you’re hearing all week is a great big bear hug from the Republican mainline.
Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel: Call him McCain manqué : Like his senior Senator, Mr. Hagel’s incisive criticisms of the intelligence system under Mr. Bush were hardly well-timed for this convention, as the administration gives its foreign policy the hard sell; nor is his long-standing contempt for the right-wing Swift-boat gang. But as with his mentor, that may make his gold star even shinier now that it seems the Bushies have come around on both fronts.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: The Mormon governor helped dig the Salt Lake City Olympics out of the scandalous bog of bribes-and-hookers allegations.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: His recall-campaign victory in California thrilled Republicans jealous of the Hollywood elite’s love affair with Democrats. Hard-line conservatives are less excited about having a movie star of their own-and suspicious of anyone who supports gay marriage and makes the party look good in a “posing pouch.”
Christine Todd Whitman: The former governor of New Jersey was one of the few public defections from the Bush administration, bailing out as E.P.A. chief after discovering there weren’t enough environmental protections to administer. Now she’s making her comeback as a maverick Republican, spitting out harsh critiques during appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher and hyping her new book, It’s My Party, Too .
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter: His long tenure on the Hill balancing G.O.P.
They straddle a thin line between fighting for less government and standing up for relatively liberal social policies.
Kansas Senator Pat Roberts: The chair of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. Roberts made news recently for coming up with a plan for the breakup of the C.I.A., an old Bush père stronghold; W. went for it.
Ohio Representative Deborah Pryce: The highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, since heading up the House Republican Conference in 2002, Ms. Pryce has been part of the G.O.P.’s new efforts at a more diverse profile; she’s one of a slate of minority and women Republicans named as a chair to the convention.
Conservatives who believe in exporting, by force if necessary, the values of American democracy around the world, the neocons got their real power when the Bush administration adopted their ideological arguments for the Iraq war. Whether they can keep from tearing themselves apart now that that project’s real-world success is so widely questioned remains to be seen.
Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith: The intellectual trio behind the war in Iraq and the bogeymen of anti-war peaceniks. Mr. Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, was dubbed the “intellectual godfather of the war” in Iraq by Time magazine. A longtime advocate of using military force to advance the principles of the country, Mr. Wolfowitz also stirred up a hornets’ nest in the den of neoconservatism, with older advocates attacking him as fiercely as they used to snipe at socialists. Mr. Perle, a longtime Cold Warrior, recently resigned as Pentagon policy advisor. Due to his close ties to the Likud Party, he’s been accused of leveraging Israeli influence on White House foreign policy. Mr. Feith, the youngster of the group, worked his way quickly up to the third-ranking civilian spot in the Pentagon-and there’s room to grow.
William F. Buckley Jr., William Kristol: The dissenting duo, these two neoconservative stalwarts have been using up airtime on cable news and spilling ink in the National Review and The Weekly Standard to rip apart the Bush administration’s foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq. Mr. Buckley, the granddaddy of the counter-counterculture and founder of the National Review , recently quit his editorial post but still wields plenty of influence with his lopsided gaze and affected accent. Mr. Kristol, who seems too mild-mannered to be a true conservative warrior, is the editor of the influential Weekly Standard , which was required reading in the early days of the Bush White House, before he started getting cranky about the war.
They were conservative before it was, uh, cool-and haven’t quite caught up yet. Wistful that the country wasn’t buried in a time capsule in 1850 for them to dig up today, the paleocons have settled on anti-immigrant policies as their main sounding-off point; the rest is pure, wacky conservative fun.
Pat Buchanan: The old-line Nixon speechwriter turned Reform Party nutcase has been exiled to the outer reaches of MSNBC, where he preaches against the war from the right-wing isolationist booth.
Grover Norquist: Mr. Norquist contains multitudes as head and chief engine of both Americans for Tax Reform and the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project. As the former, he fights to limit the reach of government by opposing every tax increase; as the latter, he fights to extend the reach of government by forcing every state to name something after the now-deceased President. Dubbed a member of the “Gang of Five,” leaders of the modern conservative movement, Mr. Norquist makes Wednesday meetings of the Leave Us Alone coalition required for his acolytes. Occasionally he dabbles in the outer reaches of Republican politics, as in his condemnations of the Patriot Act and his advocacy on behalf of Arab-American groups targeted by the F.B.I. And he’s not exactly a hero to his fellow conservatives: Bow-tied columnist Tucker Carlson once called him a “mean-spirited, humorless, dishonest little creep … the leering, drunken uncle everyone else wishes would stay home.”
Robert Novak: The cranky co-host of CNN’s Crossfire found himself in the crosshairs of the media for once when he revealed earlier this year that former-ambassador-turned-White-House-critic Joseph Wilson’s wife was a C.I.A. officer. He’s further in than we thought!
Alan Keyes: The frighteningly giddy perennial candidate and sometimes TV host was shut out of the 2000 Republican convention after refusing to drop out of the primary race against George W. Bush. Now he’s on the inside again, after agreeing to drop into the Illinois Senate race (from his Maryland home) against Democratic savior Barack Obama-a move that had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Mr. Keyes, like Mr. Obama, is black.
Whether they earned or inherited their billions, these fat cats-“Rangers” in the R.N.C. fund-raising regimental parlance-embody the stereotype of the G.O.P.: cigar-smoking white guys who sip Old-Fashioneds at the country club.
William DeWitt Jr. and Mercer Reynolds III: Mr. Reynolds, the President’s national fund-raising chairman, started an investment firm with Mr. DeWitt that later bailed out Mr. Bush’s financially troubled oil company back in 1984. They were also there with the stumpy when Mr. Bush sought major co-investors in the Texas Rangers. Together, they’ve helped raise at least $500,000 for the Republicans. Mr. Reynolds was named ambassador to Switzerland, while Mr. DeWitt was named to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Richard Egan: Along with sons Christopher F. Egan (who recently produced an anti-Kerry documentary) and Michael Egan, he’s part of the only family to include three Rangers (donors who give at least $200,000 to the G.O.P.). Together, the clan has offered over $900,000 to Republican federal candidates since 1999. The elder Egan was named ambassador to Ireland, but resigned to go back into the private sector and raise some punts for the Prez.
Republicans by birth who inherited their parents’ politics, the Juniors seem to be more open-minded about the company they keep. Five of these G.O.P. Juniors are hosting “The Next Generation of Leaders,” a shindig at Gotham Hall, during the convention.
The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara: The 22-year-old twin First Daughters made headlines for their college high jinks, but now they’re partying for the right to fight for the Right, judging from their lineup during the convention and all their time on the campaign trail.
Emma Bloomberg: She’s like an alcoholic, but for workahol! The Mayoral daughter will have to unbury her head from the pile of papers sitting in her in-box if she wants to be recognized. And she needs to appease some of her neighbors in Greenwich Village, who’ve apparently called 311 to complain about the noise made by Ms. Bloomberg’s bodyguards.
Emily Pataki: The Governor’s daughter, a Yale graduate, has certainly gotten noticed. She was recently named “Republican Babe of the Week” by www.jerseygop.com, and she worked on her father’s 2002 campaign.
Michael Reagan: Help my dead dad! No, don’t help my dead dad! After Presidential offspring Ron Reagan’s Democratic National Convention speech helped establish stem-cell research as a promising wedge issue for the Democrats, the G.O.P. aims to close the gap with Presidential offspring Michael Reagan arguing against that research.