“Always attack their strengths, not their weaknesses”
Those aren’t my words, they’re Karl Rove’s. Since he first slithered onto the national stage 40 years ago, this has been his trademarked modus operandi — to ignore his opponent’s weaknesses, and go right for the throat by attacking their strengths. Starting in Texas in the early 1970’s, and continuing up through this very day, Rove’s strategy has served his party well, and it’s high time we recognize the damage he’s done. Nobody’s talking about the birth certificate anymore, or that clown Donald Trump, or even the hilarious White House Correspondence Dinner. Now, whether or not most people even recognize it, we’re once again witnessing the behind-the-scenes work of Karl Rove.
Some examples of Rove’s “work.”
- In the rough & tumble world of Texas politics, Rove had backed a Republican candidate named Bill Clements who was badly trailing his Democratic opponent, Mark White. The election was looming, and his man was down by 9 or 10 percentage points. Suddenly, Karl Rove called a press conference to announce that he’d discovered that his office had been bugged. A tiny, battery-powered transmitter was taped to the backside of a wall hanging behind his desk. The implications were clear; Mark White’s campaign must have planted the bug as political espionage. White vehemently denied any knowledge of the bug, but it didn’t matter. Almost overnight, his poll numbers collapsed. And in the end, Bill Clement won by a nose.
What’s most interesting about this case, is that afterwards, the FBI investigated the bugging and concluded that the transmitter battery had a three hour run-time… and that it was only 25% down. That means, at the time the bug was discovered, it had only been there for 45 minutes; and Rove himself “discovered” it. To this day, when someone asks him if he himself planted that bug as a smear, he never denies it, but just smiles, and says something like; “I’d rather talk about the weather.”
- When John McCain announced his candidacy for president in 2000, it was assumed by most politicos that he would be the GOP nominee. But this wasn’t part of Rove’s master plan. He wanted his man, George W. Bush to be the 43rd president. John McCain has, if nothing else, a reputation as a solid family man. He and his wife Cindy adopted a little girl from Bangladesh. Soon, push-polling began in South Carolina where the question was asked; “If you learned that John McCain had an out of wedlock black baby, would it affect your vote?” His adopted daughter, being from Bangladesh is very dark skinned, so clearly, the race card was being played. Still other calls went something like this; “If you learned John McCain’s wife Cindy had a drug problem, would you think she’s qualified to be the next First Lady?” Cindy McCain had surgery, and became addicted to the prescribed painkillers — something she went on the record with, and immediately checked herself in to get help. But that didn’t matter to Karl Rove. He used McCain’s strong family image as a weapon against him. McCains strength suddenly became his weakness.
And as we all know, John McCain lost the nomination to George W. Bush.
- And then, there’s the Granddaddy of all Rove smear campaigns, the Swift Boat Vets for “Truth.” Rove, pulling the levers and directing the flow of traffic… and probably funding too, gathered together a band of bitter Vietnam vets, headed by two dishonest scumbags; John O’Neil and Jerome Corsi, and aimed them directly at John Kerry’s Vietnam War record. While George W. Bush was A.W.O.L. from his stateside duties in the Air National Guard, John Kerry himself rescued a man under fire, and virtually every man on his boat told the same story. But Rove’s Swift Boat vets, none of whom were close enough to actually witness the incident, all refuted Kerry’s record. So rather than the 2004 presidential campaign being about the issues, Rove managed to turn it into a referendum on John Kerry. As with John McCain, Mark White and even Jim Hightower before him, John Kerry’s strength had been used against him. Rove had fashioned it into a liability and destroyed him with it.
And once again, Karl Rove vanquished another challenger by defaming his character, and George W. Bush was re-elected to a second, disastrous term.
Now we have a situation where the “America’s Cup” of politics is being threatened. The Republicans very existence hinges on being the party of national security, and the killing of Osama bin Laden by a Democratic president is something Karl Rove will not tolerate. So on the very day following the president’s announcement of bin Laden’s death, Rove was on Fox News launching his next smear; and sharing his strategy with the rest of the right-wing. Namely, the absurd notion that George W. Bush deserved much of the credit for the take-down. Within hours, this new twist on the events in Pakistan had spread like wildfire. Virtually everyone at Fox News was parroting Rove’s words, as was Limbaugh, and even some in the mainstream media. By Wednesday, a mere three days after bin Laden was dispatched to sleep with the fishes, polls began popping up asking who deserves the credit for bin Laden’s demise; in one (I think it was the Washington Post) a staggering 52% said George W. Bush! The US News & World Report poll reported 50% for president Obama, and 33% for George W. Bush. Never mind that Bush both botched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and through his incompetence, allowed bin Laden to slip through his fingers; Karl Rove’s tried-and-true method of focusing on his opponent’s strength — in this case, president Obama’s taking down of Osama bin Laden — has to some extent wrestled the trophy away and handed it back to the GOP. The larger point of course, is the very fact that this question is even being polled at all, shows how effective Rove is in deflecting reality. Rather than discussing the demise of the biggest mass-murderer in modern times, America is now discussing who gets credit for it, as if there’s really any doubt.
Never mind that it’s a lie. And never mind that the Swift Boat Vets allegations were lies. And never mind that the smears against John McCain and his family were lies. And never mind that Rove’s claim that his opponent bugged his office was a lie. What’s important, is that his lies have WORKED. Karl Rove has been successful in swaying public opinion by lying, twisting facts and reconfiguring documented history, even as it unfolds before our very eyes. The poll showing 52% of Americans believing Bush deserves the credit for bin Laden’s death shows just how insidious and fast-moving Rove’s lies can be. They’re working.