OKAY, that headline won out over "Karen Hughes, 2001-Spring 2002, 2005-2007: An Appreciation", and "Karen Hughes: My Work Here Is Finished", on the grounds that the more I thought about it the more I figured that her first resignation was the only thing Karen Hughes ever said or did that had a fair chance of being remembered. This is the principle difference between Karen Hughes and a stick of gum: the stick of gum actually delivers some flavor for a couple of minutes.
This is the woman the Cato Institute's David Boaz, in what can only be assumed was a desperate cry for help, once described as "[possibly] the most powerful woman in the history of American politics". This came in the opening paragraphs of an April 30, 2002 "think piece" in the New York Post "newspaper" in which he insisted that Hughes really was leaving to spend more time with her family, and he said this as a means of promoting his idea that women (God love 'em) are just too estrogen-laden to run anything more complex than a nursery. (The Institute has graciously reprinted it here, just in case any outsiders were contemplating taking libertoonianism seriously, even for a moment.)
I have to admit I find the lure of Bush administration nostalgia almost irresistible, now that the man himself is reduced to playing a community theatre Miss Havisham and the only thing left of his gang is Condi Rice and a mountain of criminal prosecutions. Oh, bright cherry blossoms of 2001! Hughes was the most powerful woman ever to set foot in the West Wing. Rice and Colin Powell were the twin avatars of The Mostest Color-blind Administration, Like, Ever. Winking, smirking, and used-car-dealer bonhomie were the softening artillery barrage of a Charm Offensive set to conquer the land with Conservative Compassion. And Dick Cheney was the selfless éminence grise with one ambition-less hand discretely on the rudder as the Boy King learned the read the winds.
We say again: it is impossible to believe that anyone who accepted this crap could have survived the required navigation of any of a multitude of modern-day commonplaces: lighting a pilot light, refueling a vehicle, crossing a street, operating a zipper. And yet, there you have it, a kitschy, sentimental small-town parade where all the floats are constructed of horseshit, with a couple of local disc jockeys babbling on the PA about how fresh the air seemed that morning.
And sorry to destroy the reverie, but this wasn't the hopeful beginning of some potential New Camelot, it was the coronation of the man who had lost the fucking election. And it was not some wispy and wistful naivete; it coincided with the ugly and transparent Hey Look Over There attacks on the outgoing President, spearheaded by libels from the new Press Secretary and gleefully transmitted by the White House Press Corps and the other seekers of truth who had, to the best of their ability, ignored Iran-Contra and the Great S&L Swindle but revived the dead-issue of Whitewater for an eight-year run. It's difficult not to focus on the colossal blunders of the administration, and the unblinking bloodlust of the public in the wake of 9/11, but the departure of Karen Hughes, former Most Powerful Woman in the Solar System For Several Weeks, former WHIG, former Dallas teleprompter reader, should remind us that nothing about this operation ever passed the smell test, and it survived as long as it did because of a complete lack of public scrutiny which stinks just as bad. I hate to go all misty-eyed on ya, but to me the enduring image of the Bush administration comes from shortly before there was such a thing: his limo stopped for several minutes in the coronation parade, while the teevee commentators said nothing.