Why Rove Failed

I see a lot of catcalling going on regarding Karl Rove’s inability to forge a permanent Republican majority, and I notice that a number of people are crediting Rove with tactical mastery and strategic inadequacy. Maybe, but in my opinion, the real problem is Rove and company’s complete reliance on gutter politics.

If you look back at every stinking pile of excrement pushed by this administration, in every debate, there had to be an opposition group, the outgroup, to villify in order to push the agenda du jour (as noted in the comments, any disagreement in any form was considered to be treasonous). In every case, they were attacked viciously, with the full-fury of the Wingnuttosphere launching assault after assault until a modest 51% victory was achieved, and a mandate was declared. Anyone who spoke out of turn, or who opposed this administration was confronted by the Voltron formed of an unholy alliance of grass-roots organizations, party flacks, the blogosphere, and cronies in the ideological press (NRO and the Weekly Standard come to mind) as well as talk radio, and phasers were set on smear.

And it works great, especially when you are dealing with a portion of the population who really thinks the media is out to get them and who really are convinced Democrats are a bigger threat than Osama. A few times. Until you get to the point where everyone, due to the varying nature of ideological differences on issues, has felt the wrath of the Rove’s gutter politics. For some, it was earlier in the game. Had Schiavo come a few months earlier, I would have been a Kerry voter. Even before that, though, I was wary and disgusted with the Bush adminstration, and probably only kept somewhat inline with my support for the war in Iraq. For others, it came later. Hell, it wasn’t until this year that the anti-immigration wing got themselves put into the crosshairs, being tarred as hating Brown people (a charge which, in many cases, is accurate).

It is why to this day, Hugh Hewitt, a totally and wholly unprincipled party man, does not get the “unfair” attacks on Karl Rove, but why Michelle Malkin, who served as chief fluffer for most of this administration’s least conservative and least principled positions, can pretend that she has some level of independence from the Bush administration. Check out this Malkin post yesterday:

Not a word here about the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies.

And not a word about the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty, which will be the everlasting stain Rove leaves behind.

There are a lot of things that can be said about Michelle Malkin, and I have said many of them, but loyal Bush opposition is not one of them. She was there, cheerleading (literally), for most of the hideous things this administration has done. She was at the front of the intrusion into your marriage with the Schaivo legislation. She was one of the chief ‘conservatives’ for torture and government surveillance. By and large, her record is one of almost kneejerk support for this administration. But the very day Rove steps down, there she is claiming she is an outsider to the Rove way of doing things, and she is probably honestly stating her beliefs. How?

The answer is simple- because on those issues she did differ with this administration, her record of support didn’t matter- she got the full on smearing that anyone who opposes Bush and Rove inevitably recieve.

Instead of forging a permanent coalition, he destroyed the party from within with internecine warfare, and his gutter politics now leave behind a bitter and broken GOP, with differing factions that at best distrust each other, at worst, despise each other (I am actively rooting for a rout of the GOP in the Presidential election in 2008, and voted for Democrats in 2006). Rove’s key to success, his willingness to viciously attack his opponents, was also the key to his and the Republican’s downfall. If he and this administration had stuck to waging their nasty wars against only Democrats and people external to the GOP, I doubt we would be having this conversation. But they couldn’t, because they had no real principles- just issues to win the next little political victory as they moved onward, damned whoever gets in their way. As such, there is no real party left. All the alleged principles are gone- there are no core “conservative beliefs” left- those were all picked off one by one for some short term political victory or another.

All that is left is a broken GOP, an ascendant Democratic party, and an empty suit of a President with no track record of accomplishment and a disastrous war to manage. “Mission Accomplished,” I guess.

85 replies
  1. 1
    Jake says:

    Again, my quarrel with this reasoning is that it implies Karl called all the shots.

    President Bush: Now Karl, maybe we shouldn’t say that people who oppose the war want Osama bin Laden to take over the US.

    Karl Rove: NO! WE HAVE TO DO THIS DAMN IT!

    Bush: O-okay Karl. Don’t get mad.

    Rove: NO WIRE HANGERS EVER!!

    Nah.

    Even if Rove is a one-trick pony there were plenty of people who could have reined him in (har!) but they didn’t. As a result, every single person who could have said Karl, chill out, is responsible for the smoking ruins of the GOP, including President Empty Suit.

  2. 2
    canuckistani says:

    New theory, for which the only evidence I have is a vaguely remembered admission that Rove is an atheist who envies “people of belief”:
    Rove is a liberal who deliberately set out to destroy the Republican Party. Everyone tells you how smart he is. And yet everything he touches turns to shit. What if he really was that smart, and he’s trying to ensure a permanent Democratic majority? What could he have done differently to make things any worse for the Republicans, other than feeding a puppy to GWB on a skewer?

  3. 3
    Dave says:

    …and good riddance to him, his style of politics and the GOP as it stands now. I’ll enjoy watching the base slide into irrelevancy.

    My only regret is the Dems will be missing a counter balance, so I am rooting for a true conservative movement to emerge somehow, somewhere.

  4. 4
    Rick Taylor says:

    Interesting essay. I’d add that by feeding the encouraging the extremists in the party that the opposition is always seditious, he’s effectively gotten the Republican party horribly stuck. Republicans can’t win their primaries without adhering to a line that will horify the moderates they need to win the elections. After equating criticism of the war or talk of exit plans with cowardice or even treason, they can’t very well turn around and talk about leaving themselves, even as the country turns against the war. It’s an awful situation to be in, but they deserve every bit of it. The damage they’ve done to this counry and to the world is horrific, and the motivation was simply power.

    –Rick Taylor

  5. 5
    Jay says:

    My only regret is the Dems will be missing a counter balance

    The Democratic Party has a counter-balance. It’s called the Democratic Party.

  6. 6
    Halffasthero says:

    Jay Says:

    My only regret is the Dems will be missing a counter balance

    The Democratic Party has a counter-balance. It’s called the Democratic Party.

    Damn it, he stole my answer!

  7. 7
    Rick Taylor says:

    I’ll just add, the thought that it’s gutter politics that finally brought Rove’s plans down in the end cheers me up a little. It’s been horrible to see how effective it’s been, and I don’t want to believe tactics like that are effective in the long run.

  8. 8
    Mike S says:

    I’ve said it hundreds of times. When this country was attacked on 9/11 there was an unprecidented opportunity to unite us and the rest of the world. Party just didn’t matter. National borders didn’t matter. The entire world had an opportunity to come together and work on the things that were most important.

    But this administration saw it as an opportunity to consolidate GOP power and did everything in it’s power to do so, damn the consequences. I was one of those 80% who said “I will support this President…” I figured that he would see this opportunity and hoped he was up to the task of using it. I was sorely mistaken.

    I have so much more in common with the rank and file of the GOP than I don’t. But Rove and this admin didn’t want us to see that. They wanted us to hate each other. And while they didn’t succeed on the micro level they did on the macro. They succeeded in making GOP and DEM swear words to a large swath of the public.

    Fuck-em.

  9. 9
    RandyH says:

    Well said, John.

    Well said.

  10. 10
    Dreggas says:

    Rove failed because of, what I will call, his process of distillation. He distilled the republican party down further and further weeding out all but what the party is today, a bunch of mouth breathing, bible toting, xenophobic idiots who believe that learning ANYTHING new and changing ones opinion is wrong…in a sense he has shrunk the GOP to the status of Neanderthals.

    Those who couldn’t be so dumbed down or scared into a pant-shitting frenzy were squeezed out since they weren’t able to be whipped into a frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy with a few words.

    He calculated wrong in all of this. Most of America is more tolerant than he calculated, smarter than he calculated and in general we’re better than he calculated. Yes it took some time but perhaps the pain was needed to wake us all up.

    Think about it, we all love our country, look what has been done to it by this administration and what was, at most, the equivalent of “wormtongue” from LOTR in the form of Rove.

  11. 11
    Wilfred says:

    . The entire world had an opportunity to come together and work on the things that were most important.

    But this administration saw it as an opportunity to consolidate GOP power and did everything in it’s power to do so, damn the consequences

    That’s right. After 9/11, the US had the perfect moral authority necessary for using our economic and military power to change the world however slightly for the better. Instead we had the misfortune of having people with bad faith in power.

    Good post and thoughtful comments.

  12. 12
    tballou says:

    Well put. Lets just hope and pray that the Dems dont do the same when they get in power. My greatest fear for 2008 is a single-party government, much of which has known only the tactics of the past 7 years. I will not be shocked to see all this repeated.

  13. 13
    Richard Bottoms says:

    All that is left is a broken GOP, an ascendant Democratic party, and an empty suit of a President with no track record of accomplishment and a disastrous war to manage. “Mission Accomplished,” I guess.

    {gloat}Woo Hoo!{/gloat}

  14. 14
    Cassidy says:

    The Democratic Party has a counter-balance. It’s called the Democratic Party.

    That is quite possibly one of the scariest things I’ve heard said in a long time. While I’m sure there are plent yof good people in the democratic Party, do you really beleive they wouldn’t succumb to the excesses of power? A state ruled by one belief system is unhealthy, no matter what the belief.

    When this country was attacked on 9/11 there was an unprecidented opportunity to unite us and the rest of the world.

    People are people and inevitably selfish and self-serving. While this is a nice thought, it wouldn’t have lasted, regardless of who was in charge.

    Not being familiar with the history of Rove, who came first, Rove or the Conservative Christian Movement? If it was the CC’s, I’d credit them more with the implosion. Rove just lit the fuse with a blowtorch.

  15. 15
    Billy K says:

    But this administration saw it as an opportunity to consolidate GOP power

    But this administration saw it as an opportunity to consolidate Bush & Cheney’s power.

    FIX’D!

  16. 16
    Billy K says:

    The Democratic Party has a counter-balance. It’s called the Democratic Party.
    That is quite possibly one of the scariest things I’ve heard said in a long time. While I’m sure there are plent yof good people in the democratic Party, do you really beleive they wouldn’t succumb to the excesses of power? A state ruled by one belief system is unhealthy, no matter what the belief.

    I think what this means in practical terms (aside from just being sadly true) is there are a lot more conservative Dems than there are liberal Republicans. In fact, the whole idea of “Liberal Democrats” is pretty much a myth, IMHO. There just aren’t that many liberals any more. And for what few there are, there are plenty of Blue Dogs to keep them in check. Like them or don’t (I don’t), the DLC has been very successful in getting Dems to at least act “Centrist,” which has for the last 7 years meant going along with Bush & Co.

    Who knows what it’ll mean in 2009, but there’ll be plenty of Democrats to keep other Democrats from doing anything “Liberal.” Or hell – doing anything at all, I s’pect.

  17. 17
    Cassidy says:

    You’re a lot more optimistic than me.

  18. 18
    aliceandbob says:

    That is quite possibly one of the scariest things I’ve heard said in a long time. While I’m sure there are plent yof good people in the democratic Party, do you really beleive they wouldn’t succumb to the excesses of power? A state ruled by one belief system is unhealthy, no matter what the belief.

    I think that was less a call for one-party rule and more a tongue-in-cheek nod at the Dems’ penchant for eating their own.

  19. 19
    Cassidy says:

    I think what this means in practical terms (aside from just being sadly true) is there are a lot more conservative Dems than there are liberal Republicans.

    Okay, running with that. So we (collectively the party) for better or worse, weeded out the Zell Miller’s and Joe Lieberman’s. Who’s next? Who’s too centrist to not fit in anymore?

    In fact, the whole idea of “Liberal Democrats” is pretty much a myth, IMHO.

    I would disagree with you. Not so much on the politician side, who are too self-serving and oppurtunisitc to be “liberals”, but definitely on the voter side. IMO, they make up the voting base, which is not a good thing in my book.

    Like them or don’t (I don’t), the DLC has been very successful in getting Dems to at least act “Centrist,” which has for the last 7 years meant going along with Bush & Co.

    Another one to run with, given the truth of this, how long does it last. Once Bush and CO. are gone, the survival mode ends. That attitude was at best a short term display to maintain what seats were still held at all costs.

  20. 20
    Jimmm says:

    Praise the LAWD! At least nobody on this thread has stooped to the “Rove was the victim of a Liberal lynching” defense.

  21. 21
    Zifnab says:

    All that is left is a broken more obvious culturally destructive GOP, an ascendant weak and feakless Democratic party, and an empty suit the Tyrannt and Chief of a President with no track record of accomplishment and a disastrous war to manage.

    Again and again, people seem to think that Karl Rove failed. He didn’t fail. All those people he “ostrasized” from the GOP are the first to line up when Iraq needs more money or Bush wants more executive privileges or some new “Ah! Terror!” meme needs to be kicked around the airwaves.

    In the last six months and fifteen-odd filibusters, who looks more broken to you? The rubberstamp Republicans, or the rubberstamp-after-we-grumble-about-it-for-a-while Democrats?

    Karl Rove didn’t fail. The Republican Party failed. Karl Rove helped hand-deliver every neonaziconservative policy the administration could devise. While a Republican Congress turned a blind eye, he orchestrated the gradual takeover of the Judicial System by his cronies. In four more years, we really would be looking at a Republican Majority if the Democrats hadn’t swept in and put a stop to it.

    How did Democrats sweep in? It wasn’t Rove who got busted taking kickbacks in Texas. It wasn’t Rove text-messaging teenagers from his congressional office. It wasn’t Rove taking $2 million in kickbacks to buy a boat the IRS knew damn well he couldn’t afford. It wasn’t Rove who drew up the plans for the Iraq invasion, or disbanded the Iraqi army, or ham-handed diplomacy with Iran and Syria. Rove did a great job in delivering the US Government to the Republican majority. The Republican majority just fucked it up. People noticed. Now we’ve got Democrats again.

  22. 22
    Zifnab says:

    Crap. Forgot to close my tag.

  23. 23
    demimondian says:

    So we (collectively the party) for better or worse, weeded out the Zell Miller’s and Joe Lieberman’s. Who’s next? Who’s too centrist to not fit in anymore?

    There’s nothing “centrist” about someone whose constituents vote him out and who bolts the party as a result, like Lieberman did, or who chooses to appear at the opposing party’s national convention to give spittle-flecked talks against the current incumbent from his own party. The party didn’t kick either of those creeps out — they both chose to betray their allies by working for the opposition directly.

  24. 24
    Cassidy says:

    Bullshit. The people turned there back on both those pols before that happenned.

  25. 25
    Steve says:

    There’s plenty of people more centrist than Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party. Democrats just get sick of hearing people like Lieberman savage other Democrats in order to get a leg up.

    The moderate wing of the Democratic Party is alive and well, and pretty much remains the driving force. I’m disappointed in anyone who bought the narrative that Joe Lieberman was part of some broader ideological purge; a modicum of critical reasoning skills would tell you otherwise.

  26. 26
    orogeny says:

    Jimmy Breslin used to get really angry when he’d hear a Mafia leader described as a “good businessman.” He said that any moron can succeed in business once they decide that it’s OK to kill their competitors. That’s Rove in a nutshell – not a political genius, just a slimy bastard who is willing to ignore honesty, morality, decency and ethics in pursuit of political victory. Instead of killing his competitors he just smeared them out of existence.

  27. 27

    You guys are all fucking wrong.

    Karl Rove didn’t invent any of this. It’s been brewing for a long long time, quite possibly since Nixon or even LBJ/Goldwater in ’64. All Rove did, was look at the politics of divisiveness and say “We can crank this up a notch”.

    That’s it. The Republican party has been going down this path since Nixon. It’s been building one year after another, getting worse and worse over time.

    All Rove did was take advantage of something that was already there.

  28. 28
    demimondian says:

    The people turned there back on both those pols before that happenned

    Oops. So sorry — I could have sworn the Zell Miller did exactly as I said, and that Joe Lieberman did, in fact, lose a primary (and only win the general because of the broad support of the Republican minority in Connecticut.)

    Or, perhaps, you’re so busy planning trying to build a “stab in the back” narrative, you figure you can get by without facts. That would work, too.

  29. 29
    tBone says:

    There’s plenty of people more centrist than Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Party. Democrats just get sick of hearing people like Lieberman savage other Democrats in order to get a leg up.

    Exactly. Look at someone like Ben Nelson – an extremely conservative Dem, but he doesn’t take potshots at his own party. It’s when you’re an extremeley conservative Dem and an opportunistic asshole that you run into trouble.

    On another note, I’ve been kidding Cassidy about being a “Miller Democrat,” and I’m extemely amused to discover that it’s true.

  30. 30
    ConservativelyLiberal says:

    Excellent observations John. Painful, but excellent. I noticed this ‘style’ that Rove used early on with my lack of support for the Iraq war. I fully supported going after Osama and Company in Afghanistan, but my opposition to Iraq somehow made me a ‘traitor’, not a ‘patriot’. I know how that made me feel, and I am sure that other citizens who had the Rove Smear Machine turned on them felt the same way. You can’t go around demonizing any opposition that you encounter without eventually turning on your own.

    Rove and Company worked because the divide and conquer method is tried and true. It works. But his problem is that he did not know any boundaries in its use. Everyone was a target, even people within his own party. IMO, that was his downfall.

    Rove a genius? No way. He had a plan, but it was not a well thought out plan. This seems to be a trait of this administration. They seem to fly by the seat of the pants, and reality eventually caught up with them.

  31. 31
    Tulkinghorn says:

    All Rove did was take advantage of something that was already there.

    Maybe. A review of his Wikipedia profile of his campaign to be the chief College Republican shows a yearning to take Nixonian ratfucking to higher and higher levels – well beyond what Nixon would have considered:

    The College Republicans summer 1973 convention at the Lake of the Ozarks resort in Missouri was quite contentious. Rove’s opponent was Robert Edgeworth of Michigan (the other major candidate, Terry Dolan of California, dropped out, supporting Edgeworth). A number of states had sent two competing delegates, because Rove and his supporters had made credentials challenges at state and regional conventions. For example, after the Midwest regional convention, Rove forces had produced a version of the Midwestern College Republicans constitution which differed significantly from the constitution that the Edgeworth forces were using, in order to justify the unseating of the Edgeworth delegates on procedural grounds.[6] including delegations, such as Ohio and Missouri, which had been certified earlier by Rove himself. In the end, there were two votes, conducted by two convention chairs, and two winners — Rove and Edgeworth, each of whom delivered an acceptance speech. After the convention, both Edgeworth and Rove appealed to Republican National Committee Chairman George H.W. Bush, each contending that he was the new College Republican chairman.

    Them man is an absolute sociopath, a monster grown the fetid swamp of Nixon’s GOP. And one determined to drag the entire country into that swamp. Florida 2000 was old hat for the punk. God save us for letting him get away with it for so long. Too many mistakes like this will lead to the destruction of this country.

  32. 32
    Pug says:

    Rove’s “magic” finally ran out in 2006. During that campaign the President of the United States went out on the campaign trail and said repeatedly, “If the Democrats win, the terrorists win”.

    That about sums up the Karl Rove/George W. Bush school of politics. If you didn’t agree with them, you were no better than Osama bin Laden. I think the 70% of Americans who want to see the Iraq War end finally got tired of being accused of treason and equated to terrorists.

    They successfully smeared John Kerry, Ann Richards and many others. When they started to smear the voters, their luck ran out.

  33. 33
    cvcobb01 says:

    Not only has he destroyed conservatism today, he has made sure a majority of the next generation think of conservatives as mouthbreathing freaks without a brain in their collective heads and a soul in their collective bodies.

    Which is true of course, but he’s the one who let the cat out of the bag…

  34. 34
    Dreggas says:

    Cassidy Says:

    Bullshit. The people turned there back on both those pols before that happenned.

    Joe Lieberman should have just stuck an R after his name and have been done with it there’s little he has ever done that represents anything for the democratic party. He has continually been a yes man for R’s while excoriating the dem’s for trying to exercise any modicum of opposition. He earned what the voters did to him, then with that famed republican sense of entitlement he registered as an independent and ran basically as the republican candidate in all but name. As for Zell Miller, yeah real moderate speech he gave at the REPUBLICAN national convention…nice try.

  35. 35
    keatssycamore says:

    Karl called, not for the right decision, but the macho one.

    One is tempted to site overcompensation and self-loathing

  36. 36
    grumpy realist says:

    I’m also really ticked off at Rove thinking he’s Mark Hanna, redux.

    Mark Hanna was a very good businessman, someone who protected quite a few “lower-class” people from getting lynched by mobs, a great organizer, and someone who was written affectionately about by people who knew him. (Read Thomas Beer’s book on Hanna.)

    Rove is none of the above. He will go down in history as a nasty little twerp who indulged the present-day Republican party in all the worst aspects of human nature.

  37. 37
    Pooh says:

    Mike S Says:

    I’ve said it hundreds of times. When this country was attacked on 9/11 there was an unprecidented opportunity to unite us and the rest of the world. Party just didn’t matter. National borders didn’t matter. The entire world had an opportunity to come together and work on the things that were most important.

    Let me quote Publius on this subject:

    Ironically enough, I think Bush had the opportunity to completely change the Seinfeld worldview in the aftermath of 9/11. To me, 9/11 had precisely the opposite effect on liberals and intellectuals than World War I. World War I destroyed a world of abstractions and replaced it with a deep skepticism and cynicism from which the West has never recovered. 9/11, by contrast, almost did the opposite. It almost replaced a deeply skeptical and cynical worldview with one in which abstractions were rehabilitated.

    For instance, I found the idea of “patriotism” more compelling in the months after 9/11 than at any other time of my post-Republican life. Same deal with the ideas of duty and sacrifice. For a brief window of time, these concepts became vital again. Before Iraq, I think liberal intellectuals were in the process of forming and believing in new, intellectually-compelling versions of patriotism – a New Patriotism, based not on mindless nationalism but a shared sense of collectiveness and interdependence inspired by an external threat. It was a remarkable time – I’m glad I got to experience it.

    But now it’s gone. And I suspect it won’t come back again in my lifetime. And that’s because Bush pissed it away and exploited it to go fight his war. That was his original sin and that’s the root of why people hate him. He betrayed our unity, and exploited our national tragedy for political purposes (he did it again last night, but no one really cares anymore).

    But he could have been great. More critically, he could have attracted a lot of young liberals for whom 9/11 was a formative event. He – a Republican – had a chance to create a New American Patriotism, one that was compelling to cynical Seinfeld liberals who were in deep introspection and were willing to give earnestness a second chance in the aftermath of the tragedy. In short, he had an opportunity to free us from the Tyranny of Irony. He could have given us something to truly believe in and get behind.

    But he blew it, just like he blows everything else. What he has done is reaffirmed why we must remain ironic, even though we’re exhausted by irony. Bush has used these abstract concepts to support a political agenda and a war of choice that many of us see as wrong and potentially catastrophic. In a world where abstract notions of “freedom” and “patriotism” are used to support things like the Iraq War or torture, what choice do you have but irony and detachment from the concepts that make these things possible? Rejecting these simplified abstractions is not an exercise in immorality or amorality anymore, but one of conscious rejection, and even morality. That’s why you can’t expect us to get behind Bush’s call for patriotism and freedom – he has shown again and again that his purpose for using these concepts is to further a polarizing political agenda. You may agree with that agenda, but don’t insult my intelligence by challenging my lack of enthusiasm for Bush’s abstractions as being insufficiently patriotic or supportive of freedom. Consider me twice shy.

    So maybe 9/11 did end the Age of Seinfeld after all. It didn’t end irony, but maybe it transformed amoral irony into an act of principled morality.

  38. 38
    RSA says:

    [Rove] will go down in history as a nasty little twerp who indulged the present-day Republican party in all the worst aspects of human nature.

    I don’t think he’ll actually go down in history at all, though if he did it would be in the way you describe. He won’t even be a footnote; it’s not as if Robert Penn Warren is going to write a book about him. For what it’s worth, the Worst President Ever title goes to one guy rather than his team.

  39. 39
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:
    The Democratic Party has a counter-balance. It’s called the Democratic Party.

    That is quite possibly one of the scariest things I’ve heard said in a long time. While I’m sure there are plent yof good people in the democratic Party, do you really beleive they wouldn’t succumb to the excesses of power? A state ruled by one belief system is unhealthy, no matter what the belief.

    Good Lord, man, can you not recognize obvious snark?

    That statement is a swipe at the Democratic Party’s general lack of discipline and organization — they’re one of the few groups of people who can successfully shoot themselves in the foot while sticking it in their mouths.

    Are people on the right really this humor-impaired?

  40. 40
    cvcobb01 says:

    The Democratic party is…

    … one of the few groups of people who can successfully shoot themselves in the foot while sticking it in their mouths.

    And so we see how they too will eventually fall — they’ll stick said foot in mouth first and shoot later.

    The Repugs do it the other way around, and as we now see it becomes a real problem for them when they train the gun on themselves.

  41. 41
    Zifnab says:

    I don’t think he’ll actually go down in history at all, though if he did it would be in the way you describe. He won’t even be a footnote; it’s not as if Robert Penn Warren is going to write a book about him. For what it’s worth, the Worst President Ever title goes to one guy rather than his team.

    Nah, he’ll get a footnote. A few people still remember Sperro Agnew, even though Nixon stole all the lime-light. A few guys still remember Townsend, even though most American Revolutionary books only talk about King George III.

  42. 42
    Zifnab says:

    Good Lord, man, can you not recognize obvious snark?

    I just find it amusing he’s concern trolling the Democrats for the horrors single-party rule, when Republicans have been aiming towards that goal for the past forty years.

    Sorry, did I say Republicans? I meant every political party in existence. Show me the politician that wants geniune opposition and I’ll show you the pol who’s either very bored or very insane.

  43. 43
  44. 44
    myiq2xu says:

    The concept of wedge politics is to find an issue that will “drive a wedge” between voters in the middle and voters on the left. I don’t think anyone on the left has used this technique against the right, but even if they have, the principle remains.

    Lee Atwater used the technique to help Poppy Bush win. Pete Wilson used it in California to win two terms as governor. But neither Bush 41 or Wilson used the technique to govern.

    Bush 41 failed to win reelection, but he didn’t use the technique in his reelection bid. Wilson used the technique successfully both times, but is widely credited (or blamed) for turning California from red to blue.

    Contrast wedge politics with coalition building. Coalition building is a strategy that depends on attraction rather than division. Find common ground to attract enough voters to your side to win.

    FDR built a coalition that lasted over 30 years.

    Rove – 6 years

    FDR- 32 years

    Hmmmm. Seems like an easy choice.

    The “ratfucking” aspect is not just hardball politics. It is part of the “wedge” strategy. Destroy the enemy, make the voters in the middle dislike them.

    What’s missing from the Rove approach? Everything except divide and destroy politics.

    No policy, no plans, no principles, nothing positive.

    It’s the Al Davis theory of politics – “Just Win, Baby.”

    That strategy ain’t working so hot for the Raiders lately either.

  45. 45
  46. 46
    grumpy realist says:

    Also, as John points out above, people don’t take kindly to having “TRAITOR!” bellowed at them as soon as they raise even the slightest smidge of criticism.

    Rove thought he could run from one episode of “you traitorous slime!” to the next, swapping the target groups out incessantly, and that as soon as the vote was over, the population cursed at would come right back into the fold with no memory and no hard feelings.

    Unfortunately for Rove, humans have memories….and hurt feelings. And a lot of long knives carefully sharpened, which can get really problematic once you’ve managed to piss off a majority of the population. (Giuliani’s discovering this. NYCers have very good memories. Some of the best writing covering what’s been going on with Giuliani is over at the Group News Blog.)

  47. 47
    Jake says:

    Unfortunately for Rove, humans have memories….and hurt feelings.

    I think the “I’m sorry you misconstrued my remarks,” non-apology apologies, along with frequent threats that Osama bin Boogeyman would get us were supposed to cover that.

    Part of this Admin’s problem is they think they’re intelligent and everyone else is dumber than a sack of dead rats. Their failure to adjust their tactics in light of new, conflicting evidence shows they are at best, a bunch of arrogant dickheads.

  48. 48
    Tax Analyst says:

    Yup, you were “with ’em or against ’em”, and if you were against ’em, well, then you had to be a traitorous defeatist. I certainly got called that enough times to more than enough have had my fill. For a long time they were able to cobble together their precious 51% by resorting to this crap…they just rang the bell for the 25-30% base and those folks just drooled on themselves and did as fearless leader commanded, and slandered those who did not. After that they could always call upon the slight, spineless and utterly without principle party majorities they held in Congress to push through whatever they wanted. Hell, if not for the 2006 elections they would STILL be doing it…does anyone doubt that?

    Good post, John…thanks.

  49. 49
    ConservativelyLiberal says:

    The infamous Rove blurb that will always come to mind when he is mentioned is:

    “You may end up with a different math, but you’re entitled to your math,” Rove said. “I’m entitled to ‘the’ math.”

    ‘The Math’…

    Is that like saying ‘You have your view of reality, I have ‘the reality’? It seems that these guys have lived in their own little world, and now it is crumbling around them. I will not turn my back on these guys (like Rove) either. This rattlesnake was thumped soundly, but he is still free to strike back. And I think that he will strike again.

    Interesting note aside is that RedNeckState had a diary up on the front page about the Iraqi interior minister and the Italian mafia trying to cut an arms deal without the knowledge of the US military.

    It disappeared like *snap* that. Gone, and now it never happened. It is nice when you can control what you define as reality, is it not? ;)

  50. 50
    George Arndt says:

    If Karl Rove was such a “genius”, why was Bush elected and re-elected by what cold be the smallest margins in history? If Nader hadn’t run or if Gore hadn’t “re-invented” himself a few times too many, a democratic victory in 2000 would have been unambiguous. And in 2004, a liberal in the same mold (in terms of ideology and a lack of charisma) as Mondale and Dukakis almost threw a wartime president out of office. Political “mastermind”? I think not.

  51. 51
    cleek says:

    well said, John.

    the force is with you. and your anger makes you strong.

  52. 52
    cleek says:

    And in 2004, a liberal in the same mold (in terms of ideology and a lack of charisma) as Mondale and Dukakis almost…

    almost doesn’t count, of course.

  53. 53
    John S. says:

    Show me the politician that wants geniune opposition and I’ll show you the pol who’s either very bored or very insane.

    Was Abraham Lincoln bored or insane?

  54. 54
    grumpy realist says:

    Ha. That reminds me of the comment made about the Governor of California, Mr. Davis: “like Al Gore, but without the charisma.”

  55. 55

    Did he fail? A lot of the top dogs got richer and richer. Oil companies made huge fortunes. Our Constitution has been gravely wounded. BushCo’s constituency has won, laws are in place that will take years (if ever) to roll back. The bureaucracy has been filled with true believers. The rights of the American worker has been further eroded.

    Even if every Republican candidate lost next year there would be another party invented to take its place. The same financing would push it. The Christian Patriot Party, the Patriot Patriot Party. Whatever. Or maybe the plutocracy would just buy the Democratic Party. Maybe they already have.

    Did Rove lose? Count the chips as everyone leaves the casino. Better, look who owns the casino.

  56. 56

    Last year, I got into it with a local blogger on the Houston Chron blogs and on her personal blog. Her commenters at both places regularly called Murtha a traitor, and when I argued (with links — they never had any) each of their points, they lumped me in. I dogged her from every direction and she quit both blogs before the election in November.

    Disagree that I had a hand in that — she chose to do so all by herself, but I had had enough of her and her commenters freely calling anyone who disagreed a traitor or a terrorist sympathiser.

    I teach international students, some of whom are Muslims, and offered her the opportunity to come to my school and meet them. (Another of her commenters offered to get her in touch with some of his Muslim friends in the UK.) She refused both of us. Once she had dinner with some Indians and heard an earful of anti-Muslim rhetoric. She came away more adimant than before.

    She still is a big GWB fan and is now adrift as to 2008.

    I guess my point is that there are many more out there like her. They didn’t get hit and are still all for Bush, but they are divided on where to go. (Originally she was hard-core McCain, but already she has dropped him.)

    Oh, and my other point is that from way back Rove and Bush and Poppy and DeLay, and now Craddick have all screwed up my state. (Notice I left out the ultimate puppet Perry.) It’s going to take a lot of work to get this state back together. The infected ones are still the ones with the loudest mouths.

    Thanks for the space, John. Thanks for the post.

  57. 57
    Tulkinghorn says:

    Can Texas be fixed?

    This is not snark – most of us in the Northeast, out of ignorance, probably, have written Texas off as hopeless, and probably a mistake from the very beginning.

    Thanks for Richards, and Ivens, though. You don’t make them like you used to.

    And fwiw, I would like to apologize for letting Willard M. Romney loose to dog the rest of the country. We will try to keep such riff-raff bottled up in Utah from now on.

  58. 58

    Tulk, in a word, I hope so. I’m trying. (and it’s not just me.)

    We have a number of Reagan Republicans — people in the oil industry and those who left the north during the ’80’s, but there are solid liberals here. There are even some not so bad bluedogs. We fought the redistricting the best we could and through the courts we go one district back. Even the Republicans are trying to oust Craddick, though they failed last session. But for stupid Kinky, I feel fairly certain (people I talked with) that Chris Bell would have defeated Perry. Now Perry has been shown to be a sham, but if Rove comes back here and starts touting him for VP, I will gag — literally — unlike John or Sully.

    Perry backtracked off of every campaign promise and then tried to shove a good thing (HPV vac) onto everyone — screwing girls for life here — or at least until the sane PR campaign can overcome it.

    Damn — I should have written this on my own blog :) I AM NOT BLOGWHORING.

    Perhaps I should delete all of that and simply say:

    Texas can be fixed?

    YES

    But I am lazy on these intertubes.

  59. 59
    Joseph says:

    Karl Rove: a virus that burned through its host population too quickly to survive in the long term

  60. 60
    Redhand says:

    I decided Bush was an unprincipled POS during the 2000 South Carolina Repub. primary. That’s when Rove and his shit slingers started the vicious “John McCain is a nutjob” smear. I can still recall Rush Limbaugh’s lickspittle contributions to it. The idea that a feckless National Guard dropout like Bush would claim that McCain was unfit because of his POW experiences was beyond nauseating.

    And it’s all been downhill from there.

  61. 61

    Red — don’t forget the adoption thing — nor the fact that while NOLA was drowning, GWB was giving McCain a birthday cake.

  62. 62

    I do want to say, when I said you’re all wrong. I meant the commentors. :-)

    I think John is fairly spot on with his point about using wedge issues in a all or nothing way tends to drive people away.

  63. 63
    tBone says:

    The idea that a feckless National Guard dropout like Bush would claim that McCain was unfit because of his POW experiences was beyond nauseating.

    And it’s all been downhill from there.

    For McCain too, unfortunately. To see him bending over for the people who treated him like that in 2000 has been sickening.

    On the other hand, maybe the downhill gradient has been a good thing for McCain. After all, the Straight Talk Express is still creeping along at a steady 3mph despite four flat tires, a bad transmission, and a leaky radiator.

  64. 64
    TenguPhule says:

    Can Texas be fixed?

    Provided we can find a big enough pair of scissors to do the cutting, yes.

  65. 65
    Badtux says:

    The problem is that Rove’s politics were not invented by Rove. I remember Rush Limbaugh viciously attacking opponents of Ronald Reagan back in the 1980’s, and anybody remember Lee Atwater and the Willie Horton ad? That ad got Poppy Bush elected, and was as vicious a slander as anything ever put forth by Rove.

    You can blame Rove all you want. But the fact of the matter is that Rove was a symptom, not a cause. The principled Republican Party of Barry Goldwater was dead by 1968 when the vile, venal criminal Richard Nixon got elected over LBJ Lite Humphrey, dead of a disease that says, “the end justifies the means.” Once you fall over that waterfall, there ain’t no swimming back up it — you’re going down, down, down into the moral abyss. The whole Iran-Contra thing, where we find out that the CIA was helping the Contras smuggle crack cocaine into Los Angeles in order to fund their activities (if you wonder what I’m talking about, the DEA was closing in on some of the Contras and the CIA ordered them to back off, which implies that they knew darn well what the Contras were doing) is just an example of the kind of moral abyss that you end up in the moment you start with “the end justifies the means”. The entire Bush II administration just went over the waterfall with the rest of the party, it is only the fact that there is no strong leader at the top (unlike the Reagan and Bush I regimes) that makes it so clear and obvious.

    The problem is that Goldwater was a miserable failure. Americans don’t seem to want principled politics, was the lesson that the Republican Party took away from the 1964 election. Americans want attack politics, like LBJ’s famous “Daisy” ad. And for 40 years, the Republicans have given Americans what the Republican Party thinks they want. And for most of those 40 years they’ve done quite well at it. The departure of Rove, methinks, changes nothing in that regard. All this was true before Rove showed up, and will be true on September 1 when Rove leaves the building. All that changes is the face at the top, not the entire strategy of dirty politics and the end justifies the means.

    – Badtux the Morality Penguin

  66. 66
    Redhand says:

    For McCain too, unfortunately. To see him bending over for the people who treated him like that in 2000 has been sickening.

    I was going to say something about this too, but didn’t want to blur the main point. However, I agree completely. I think McCain would have made a good president in 2000, but the damage done to him that year was permanent. He’s a burnt out husk of the politician he once was, and a bizarre Stockholm Syndrome like figure when it comes to the Bush Administration. Sad but true. I wouldn’t vote for him now for anything.

  67. 67
    Cassidy says:

    I just find it amusing he’s concern trolling the Democrats for the horrors single-party rule, when Republicans have been aiming towards that goal for the past forty years.

    Call it what you will. I don’t need to qualify my opinions with first detracting the other side. That’s a childish game you like to play here.

    But, if understand you crrectly, single-party rule is bad, unless it’s your party, in which case it’s good? That seems a mite hypocritical, if not delusional.

  68. 68

    The problem is that Goldwater was a miserable failure. Americans don’t seem to want principled politics, was the lesson that the Republican Party took away from the 1964 election. Americans want attack politics, like LBJ’s famous “Daisy” ad.

    I don’t think Goldwater’s problem was his principles. His campaign is most remembered for two things:

    – Supporting KKK and their resistance to Civil Rights
    – Calling for mass escalation into Vietnam

    These were not widely supported positions at the time. I guess you could say it was a rejection of principled politics, but it was more the case it was a rejection of those particular principles.

    One other thing Republicans have taken away from that, is that they can’t be honest with the American People if they expect to get elected. So they lie their pants off.

  69. 69

    Call it what you will. I don’t need to qualify my opinions with first detracting the other side. That’s a childish game you like to play here.

    I don’t understand. Isn’t this what you are doing by detracting Democrats?

  70. 70
    Tim F. says:

    Show me the politician that wants geniune opposition and I’ll show you the pol who’s either very bored or very insane.

    Bill Clinton also sought out advisors and intellectuals who would contradict him. He dealt quite comfortably with political opposition and even seemed to enjoy managing hecklers. Our current president might make it seem like politicians live in constant fear of someone disagreeing with them, but it just ain’t so.

  71. 71
    Zifnab says:

    That’s not what I mean and you know it. I’m refering to a challenge to obtaining elected office, not a challenge to common wisdom or one’s own opinion. I don’t think Clinton cried himself to sleep over crushing Bob Dole in the ’96 election, because Dole just wasn’t a big enough opposition.

  72. 72
    jake says:

    That seems a mite hypocritical, if not delusional.

    Irony-O-Meter: KABOOM!

    Jake: SHiT! There goes another one!

  73. 73
    Cassidy says:

    I don’t understand. Isn’t this what you are doing by detracting Democrats?

    Not really, the Dems are my side. Secondly, I was responding to the post regarding the Democrats beig able to police themselves. We can talk about Rove if you like, but I’m pretty sure all has been said.

  74. 74

    Not really, the Dems are my side.

    Why can’t you be honest?

  75. 75
    Cassidy says:

    I am being honest. I’ve consistently voted Democrat since I turned 18.

  76. 76
    Badtux says:

    But, if understand you crrectly, single-party rule is bad, unless it’s your party, in which case it’s good? That seems a mite hypocritical, if not delusional.

    “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” — Will Rogers, circa 1936

    What was true then, is true today. Claiming that a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President would be “one-party rule” assumes that the Democrats are an organized party, rather than a collection of random interest groups united only by the fact that they, well, aren’t Republicans.

    Or are you saying that Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich are part of some monolithic “Democratic Party”, despite disagreeing on, well, everything?!

  77. 77
    Cassidy says:

    Or are you saying that Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich are part of some monolithic “Democratic Party”, despite disagreeing on, well, everything?!

    I’m saying that regardless of internal factions, once a party realizes it has unchecked power, it becomes a dangerous organism.

  78. 78

    I’m saying that regardless of internal factions, once a party realizes it has unchecked power, it becomes a dangerous organism.

    Which is why I support Democrats now in opposition to unchecked power of the Republicans. If and when the Democrats go down that route, I will reevaluate my opinions.

    I think it’s funny how you say we should support Republicans because the Democrats might become corrupt.

  79. 79
    mclaren says:

    This has got to be the most insightful post John Cole has made yet.

    I think it was Martin Luther King who pointed out “In order to keep a man in the gutter, you have to get down in the gutter to do it.” Ultimately, a politics built on hate can’t sustain itself. McCarthyism self-destructed once before, 50 years ago, when Tailgunner Joe went after the U.S. Army, and now McCarthyism has self-destructed once again, when this maldministration finds itself gong after 70% of the American people.

    Rove seems to have been trying to produce the kind of perpetual control of Congress that the Demos enjoyed for 60 years. But liberals controlled Congress by being right on the major issues. For 60 years, liberals were on the right side of every issue that counted. Liberals were right about the need for an 8-hour workday; liberals were right about the need to break up the trusts; liberals were right about the need for workplace safety regulations; liberals were right about the need to allow unions to organize. Liberals were right about the need for regulating banks. Liberals were right that the stock market needed to be regulated to prevent fraud. Liberals were right that women had to be given the vote. Liberals were right that we had to establish some form of social safety net for the old. LIberals were right on civili rights in the 60s.

    Conservatives fought tooth and nail against every one of these initiatives, and the conservatives were wrong every time. That’s why people kept electing liberals to Congress and that’s why the liberals wound up controlling Congress for 60 years. It wasn’t clever trickery or election tactics. It was being right about the things that coutned.

    Liberals are still right about hte things that count. We need to get out of Iraq, we need to restore habeas corpus, we need to shut down the surveillance state, we need to stop torture, we need to shut down Guantanamo Bay, we need to cut defense spending, we need to rebuild our infrastructure, we need to restore unbiased science to to its position of independence from politcs, and we need to recognize and act on global warming, and start a crash program to attain energy independence.

    Conservatives are ont he wrong side of every one of these issues. McCarthy-style smear tactics won’t change that. And that’s what Rove failed to realize.

  80. 80
    Cassidy says:

    I think it’s funny how you say we should support Republicans because the Democrats might become corrupt.

    I’ve said no such thing and I challenge you to do so.

  81. 81
    jake says:

    OT: Sour grapes:

    That infuriated some Republicans, who said their party might have kept more seats in Congress and perhaps kept control of the Senate if Rumsfeld had left before the election.

    Gee, too bad they didn’t try to force out or distance themselves from the Pentagon’s albatross before the election.

    They’re still not learning. Good.

  82. 82
    Adam says:

    I am still checked out of commenting here, but this post is good enough to justify a temporary hiatus offering kudos. Very well put, John. Not much more to be said about a guy who bugged his own office during a campaign and forgot to put batteries in the mic. Rove traded on ruthlessness to hide his lack of skill — regardless of how history judges him, that’s the truth.

    And yes, Texas can be fixed. It’ll be tough, but it can be done. Personally, I think that the GOP may have overplayed their hand with the redistricting fiasco, and I hope that there’s enough poetic justice in the world that it’ll come back to bite them in the ass someday.

    Remember, our Governor before W was Ann Richards. Texas is not an invincible Republican stronghold, not by a long shot.

  83. 83
    BCT says:

    I hate to piss on the parade, but the only thing that’s changed is Rove has left the WH. All the tools he used are still in place. The republican party has lots of people who can and will use them. They’ve still got the pundit class, the editorial boards and talk radio.

  84. 84
    Paul says:

    Actually the bug had batteries but they had only been used for fifteen minutes, which included the time it took him to call the FBI to report the so called bugging. This incident always struck me as particularly sleazy, and I’m surprised it doesn’t get mentioned more often.

  85. 85

    […] First, the GOP has too many factions for rigidity to work. The GOP of the DeLay/Frist golden years wasn’t rigid at all – order was maintained through a heady mix of brown people fearmongering, rank corruption and keeping coalition-threatening agenda items off the table. Should they please the Chamber of Commerce or the Minutemen? Panty-sniffing vagina inspectors or libertarians? Small government types or surveillance state neocons? Unless you count Schiavo (and maybe you should), pushing that immigration bill was the beginning of the end. […]

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  1. […] First, the GOP has too many factions for rigidity to work. The GOP of the DeLay/Frist golden years wasn’t rigid at all – order was maintained through a heady mix of brown people fearmongering, rank corruption and keeping coalition-threatening agenda items off the table. Should they please the Chamber of Commerce or the Minutemen? Panty-sniffing vagina inspectors or libertarians? Small government types or surveillance state neocons? Unless you count Schiavo (and maybe you should), pushing that immigration bill was the beginning of the end. […]

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