Battle of the Bushes

Nov. 14. 2006 —, 2006 -- Many in Washington think it can't be a coincidence that the two men tasked to help the president find a way out of Iraq -- James Baker at the Iraq Study Group, and Robert Gates at the Pentagon -- happen to be close cronies of the president's father, George H.W. Bush.

The move is being called everything from "The Return of the Realists" to a family intervention to a high-stakes episode of "Father Knows Best."

But the White House says it isn't so -- daddy is not out to save his son.

"This is not bringing in people willy-nilly from his president's administration, quote, 'to save him.' Wrong," White House press secretary Tony Snow said on Monday.

The battle of legacies between Bush senior and junior is one of the longest-running oedipal dramas in modern political history.

From the start of the younger Bush's presidency, both have been adamant that there will be no sharing of wisdom.

"My wonderful state of mind is to support the president without reservation. Stay out of his way," George H.W. Bush said.

Bush Sr. to the Rescue?

According to Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist and author, in the wake of instability in Iraq and Democrats' win in the midterm elections, the senior Bush has gone back on that statement, intervening in his son's rule with the help of his friends.

On "Good Morning America," Dowd said James Baker's inclusion in the Iraq Study Group was like Bush Sr. stepping in to get his son back on track.

"From the point of view from the Bush 41 team, it's pretty much like the scene in 'Borat' where he tries to get the sack over Pamela Anderson's head and run away with her," she said, referring to one of the infamous moments in the controversial comedy.

"They are trying to get him away from what they consider the dark influences that are basically gone so much against the Bush family legacy of internationalism and diplomacy and nuance," she said.

Dowd said Baker's job was to un-brainwash President Bush.

"It's pretty much like a cult. If you're trying to get your kid away from the cult, the deprogramming has just begun. Baker is locking into W. with that southern-comfort voice," she said.

Bush Jr. is known for being hardheaded, and Dowd admitted that the process of "deprogramming" might take some time.

"Junior has that stubborn streak. He can get his back up and go back to his missionary zeal, but they're trying to infuse some nuance and diplomacy into the situation, so that we can talk to other countries rather than blowing them all off," she said.

Picking Candidates for '08

Dowd also weighed in on the postmidterm election speculation about who would run for president in 2008.

While she admitted former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani might have a shot at the Republican nomination because of his role in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, she said it would be hard for him to match Arizona Sen. John McCain's fervent campaign for the party's support.

"America's mayor wants to be America's president," she said. "But the Republican base has not shifted enough for Rudy Giuliani to win that nomination unless something were really to change. He's not been pandering as McCain to get it."

On the issue of whether Sens. Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton could lead the Democrats to a White House win, Dowd said she had her doubts about whether a nonwhite or female candidate could be elected.

"I'm not sure we've gotten so much farther along than with Ferraro," she said, referring to Geraldine Ferraro, who ran for vice president in 1984. "I do think there's obviously racism and sexism, but I think they are two extraordinary candidates who might be able to triumph over some of that, but we'll see."