So now Tom Ridge is gone. In quick succession Ridge, Tommy Thompson, and Colin Powell have been cast aside by the Bush administration — three of the GOP’s most prominent, admired moderates have become irrelevant.
It’s important to think back four years to understand what went on here. In 1999-2000, Powell’s name was bandied about for Veep, if not more. Thompson and Ridge were popular governors of moderate states, percieved to have broad appeal. Vice President in 2004 was not unreasonably suggested as a goal for these individuals as well.
Flash forward to today, these three prominent Republicans have been cast aside — good riddance, most say. Powell is percieved as irrelevant, powerless in the Iraq war, his international reputation in tatters and his domestic reputation not much better. Ridge is remembered as the guy who created silly colored alerts. Who is Tommy Thompson again? Nobody would ever remember that he was, effectively, the architect of welfare reform.
Why would this happen? Well, Bush has consistently spoken to the center but acted for the right. If the right wishes to continue to run the GOP, they need to neuter the center. What better way to do so than give all of the center’s leaders the opportunity to fail, and then make sure they do? Irrelevant people can’t become policy leaders, in or out of office.
What’s my prediction? Look for Rudy Giuliani to succeed Ridge in Homeland Security. Right now, the biggest threat to the right in 2008 is a McCain/Giuliani ticket; giving Rudy a job that’s too big to succeed at is the best way to remove that threat. It’s a purge, all right — a quiet purge, but a purge nonetheless.