July 24, 2005

Rove's America

I hope you enjoy this piece because I coughed up $3.95 to get it from the NYT archives just for you, the loyal reader.

Paul Krugman in the NY Times 7-15-05:

John Gibson of Fox News says that Karl Rove should be given a medal. I agree: Mr. Rove should receive a medal from the American Political Science Association for his pioneering discoveries about modern American politics. The medal can, if necessary, be delivered to his prison cell.
What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.

I first realized that we were living in Karl Rove's America during the 2000 presidential campaign, when George W. Bush began saying things about Social Security privatization and tax cuts that were simply false. At first, I thought the Bush campaign was making a big mistake -- that these blatant falsehoods would be condemned by prominent Republican politicians and Republican economists, especially those who had spent years building reputations as advocates of fiscal responsibility. In fact, with hardly any exceptions they lined up to praise Mr. Bush's proposals.

But the real demonstration that Mr. Rove understands American politics better than any pundit came after 9/11.

Every time I read a lament for the post-9/11 era of national unity, I wonder what people are talking about. On the issues I was watching, the Republicans' exploitation of the atrocity began while ground zero was still smoldering.

Mr. Rove has been much criticized for saying that liberals responded to the attack by wanting to offer the terrorists therapy -- but what he said about conservatives, that they ''saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war,'' is equally false. What many of them actually saw was a domestic political opportunity -- and none more so than Mr. Rove.

A less insightful political strategist might have hesitated right after 9/11 before using it to cast the Democrats as weak on national security. After all, there were no facts to support that accusation.

But Mr. Rove understood that the facts were irrelevant. For one thing, he knew he could count on the administration's supporters to obediently accept a changing story line. Read the before-and-after columns by pro-administration pundits about Iraq: before the war they castigated the C.I.A. for understating the threat posed by Saddam's W.M.D.; after the war they castigated the C.I.A. for exaggerating the very same threat.

Mr. Rove also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don't have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person's effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they'll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.

And now we know just how far he was willing to go with these smear tactics: as part of the effort to discredit Joseph Wilson IV, Mr. Rove leaked the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A. I don't know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there's no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason.

But what we're getting, instead, is yet another impressive demonstration that these days, truth is political. One after another, prominent Republicans and conservative pundits have declared their allegiance to the party line. They haven't just gone along with the diversionary tactics, like the irrelevant questions about whether Mr. Rove used Valerie Wilson's name in identifying her (Robert Novak later identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame), or the false, easily refuted claim that Mr. Wilson lied about who sent him to Niger. They're now a chorus, praising Mr. Rove as a patriotic whistle-blower.

Ultimately, this isn't just about Mr. Rove. It's also about Mr. Bush, who has always known that his trusted political adviser -- a disciple of the late Lee Atwater, whose smear tactics helped President Bush's father win the 1988 election -- is a thug, and obviously made no attempt to find out if he was the leaker.

Most of all, it's about what has happened to America. How did our political system get to this point?


At 7/24/2005 1:13 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Dope, thanks for sharing with us. I have read Krugman before but this is one of his best columns.

Yes, Dope the Rovian theory of how to win an election is being taught and spread about in all areas of our country. I have often thought that someone who was a student of Karl Rove's tactics came around into Moline during the desperation felt by the Republicans in the final weeks of the Moline Mayoral race. Yes, that was thug politics at it's finest. The Republicans came out and even though they did no know anything at all about the guy they voted for, they went to vote against someone and not for someone. Thus we get an airhead for a few years and we lost the people's advocate. Therefore, the people are the ones who loose.

Yes el - Dopo -- we are seeing the results of Rove, a guy who's power is unchecked in our world. How long will this go on? Can it be stopped before our life as we know it is ruined?

Only the people can make a change. Only the people can become educated and make informed choices at the polls. It is harder and harder to get an education today. The fluff educational programs put out by chimpy are not effective. Yet, it only takes one person to make a difference.

Everyone needs to reflect and remember that Dope.

At 7/25/2005 10:35 AM, Blogger diehard said...

Its funny that the party of slimbags like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove are worried about besmearching their good names.
Remember Willie Horton?

At 7/25/2005 6:32 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Wasn't Lee Atwater the one who came up with the Willie Horton slam? Then he went down in flames. What happened to Lee? Anyone remember? Maybe the same fate can befall our own Karl Rove......

At 7/25/2005 7:40 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

As you probably know, Lee Atwater, perhaps the father of nasty, scumbucket political thuggery, died of an inoperable brain tumor.

Apparently when faced with his own morality, Atwater had a epiphany. Facing death, he finally realized that he'd been a rat-bastard his entire career and in the process caused much pain and suffering.

From the Wikipedia entry on Atwater:

Shortly before his death he said he had converted to Catholicism and, in an act of repentance, issued a number of public and written apologies to individuals he had attacked during his political career, including Dukakis. In a letter to Tom Turnipseed dated June 28, 1990, he stated, "It is very important to me that I let you know that out of everything that has happened in my career, one of the low points remains the so called 'jumper cable' episode," adding, "my illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything."

In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:

"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul."

At 7/26/2005 7:14 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Do you suppose our friend Karl Rove is suffering from a Tumor of the Soul?

At 7/27/2005 1:34 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Rove has been seduced by power. He won't repent until he too is facing his own mortality, and even then it's doubtful.

One can only hope that at some point in his life, he'll stop to realize his role in the denigration of our political system and his enormous role in making lies, deception, and a total lack of integrity the norm in our political system.

At 7/27/2005 6:43 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Sadly yes you are right Dope. Likely what will happen instead, Rove will continue to win and he will pen a few books and make a few millions at some point in the near future.

People will buy his crap too!


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