KARL ROVE: joker
(CH, L, CW) (what do these signs mean?)

Karl Rove is sometimes described as "Bush's Brain" meaning that he supplies the strategies and tactics by which George W. Bush has risen from unsuccessful businessman to President. Because Rove prefers to stay in the background, publicly, and confine himself to behind-the-scenes maneuvering, we do not have as many delicious and corrupt quotes as we do for more in-your-face types. But Rove is a major player, and his strategies play on what is worst in the American psyche for their success.

John DiIulio, former Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, wrote "Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political advisor post near the Oval Office." After Republicans won the midterm elections, another senior White House official told Ron Suskind of Esquire, "Karl just went from prime minister to king. Amazing . . . and a little scary. Now no one will speak candidly about him or take him on or contradict him. Pure power, no real accountability."


Rove is also a textbook case of Lord Acton's adage that power corrupts. His influence is a large part of the reason why under its anti-government rhetoric, federal spending is rising, the power of government is growing, deficits are out of control, and "conservative" leaders are either becoming disenchanted or proving themselves utterly without integrity.

Intellectually, Rove talks excitedly of Alexander Tocqueville and James Madison. Politically he undercuts them at every step. Madison and Tocqueville saw the size and diversity of the US as a source of both creativity and a safeguard against tyranny. It would be difficult, Madison argued, for a majority to unite on any platform that wasn't good for the country as a whole. Tocqueville praised the local initiatives that transformed American society with vitality and creativity. According to Nicholas Lemann, Rove apparently thinks he is inspired by the work of these men.


Politically Rove works hard undermining the principles of both. This becomes clear when we consider his third hero, one he no longer acknowledges: Mark Hanna. Hanna was key in putting together the Republican coalition that made William McKinley president, and crushed the Democrats for many years to come. Hanna did so by many means, none of which had much to do with limited government, and most of which had top do with the effectiveness of power and money. Suskind writes that he has talked to people long associated with Rove, "one of whom said, 'Some kids want to grow up to be president. Karl wanted to grow up to be Mark Hanna. We'd talk about it all the time.'"

To the extent there is a clear purpose in the Bush administration's attempt to build America's first national political machine, (link to the conservative article) the strategy is probably Rove's. It requires stitching together a coalition based on access to governmental favors and payments to avoid being punished by those in power, combined with unprecedented control over hiring. Ethics, the public good, constitutional principles, and loyalty are valuable only so long as they contribute to holding power. It is the exact opposite of Madison and Tocqueville's visions of a free society, and it is apparently Rove's vision of America.

It requires ruthlessness, and Rove has it. Suskind writes of waiting outside Rove's office for an interview. "Inside, Rove was talking to an aide about some political stratagem in some state that had gone awry and a political operative who had displeased him. . . . 'We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!' As a reporter, you get around-curse words, anger, passionate intensity are not notable events-but the ferocity, the bellicosity, the violent imputations were, well, shocking. This went on without a break for a minute or two. Then the aide slipped out looking a bit ashen, and Rove, his face ruddy from the exertions of the past few moments, looked at me and smiled a gentle, Clarence-the-Angel smile. 'Come on in.'"


John McCain
Stories of Rove's ruthlessness are legion. Consider the South Carolina 2000 Presidential primary. The South Carolina Presidential primary in 2000 is a case in point. John McCain threatened to defeat George Bush, as he had in New Hampshire. Suddenly, as Ron Suskind describes it, "Bush loyalists began distributing parking-lot handouts and making telephone 'push polls' and fomenting whisper campaigns that McCain had fathered a black baby by a prostitute, his wife was a drug addict, and that he had become unstable due to his years in a Vietnamese prison camp.

The McCains had adopted a baby from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh. "Bridget, now eleven years old, waved along with the rest of the McCain brood from stages across the state, a dark-skinned child inadvertently providing a photo op for slander." McCain lost.


The nature of his job is that we will never know whether Rove was responsible or not. Similar uncertainty exists for other claims about his dirty and dishonest politics. What we can know for sure is that Rove is a master political strategist, and that his candidates win while very dirty politics is played in their favor.

Valerie Plame
George Bush says he knows Karl Rove is innocent. Since Bush has made a point of not trying himself to find out the identity of the leakers of the identity of an undercover CIA agent working on weapons of mass destruction issues, we can only wonder how he knows. One thing which seems beyond doubt is that after the initial leak, Rove did his best to further attacks on Plame as part of his operation against former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who displeased the Bush administration by doing something they did not: tell the truth.

Rove reportedly told journalist Chris Matthews, and maybe others, that Wilson's wife and her undercover status were "fair game." Newsweek's account has not been denied by Rove or the White House. Such is the stuff of Karl Rove's "patriotism" when it stands between him and vengeance against those who have displeased him, and even against their families.

Evan Thomas and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, Oct. 13, 2003, http://www.indybay.org/news/2003/10/1651996.php

It is apparently illegal for Rove to have acted in this manner, and we can only hope that someone other than former Rove employer John Ashcroft will investigate these felonies.


The failure of many (not all) "conservative" leaders to condemn this kind of behavior says volumes about the utter moral bankruptcy of the Radical Right, and their betrayal of all who they seeks to manipulate by their claims to having traditional values, or indeed, any values at all besides power and greed. But if they were not morally bankrupt and in power, this website would have no reason to exist. Here is a true divide, one separating genuine conservatives from the radical right. Historians will deal harshly with those who sell their souls for a little power and wealth, Karl Rove among them.

Department of Homeland Security and 9-11
After 9-11 it became increasingly clear the attacks could have been prevented had the administration been on top of things. One potentially very embarrassing piece of information was Colleen Rowley's testimony to the Senate on the FBI's failure to take any action on her memo about a potential 9-11 style attack. On the very same day Rowley was to testify, the administration announced their plan for a Homeland Security Department, capturing the headlines.

The cynicism and ruthlessness was breathtaking. Till then the administration had opposed such a department when Joe Lieberman had proposed it, eight months ealier. Afterwards, when the Senate tried to turn the administration's hastily improvised bill into something more coherent, they were attacked by a draft dodging George Bush as not sufficiently committed to the security of the United States. This despite the rather impressive record (link to page on military service) of military service by many leading democrats and the utter lack of any service at all by almost all leading members of the Bush administration. The hypocrisy was breathtaking - and effective.


The debasing of democracy
But unfortunately there is more. Rove reportedly learned from Michael Deaver, Ronald Reagan's campaign advisor, how to manipulate the media. Television is poor at giving facts and great at presenting simple images. This need not be misleading, but it certainly can be. James Moore, author of Bush's Brain, a book on Rove, observed that Rove "once told a consultant that we interviewed . . . that you should run every political campaign as though people were watching television with the sound turned down. And toward that end, you rely heavily on imagery and not very much on substance."


The Bush administration has been masterful at presenting Bush with in memorable ways, knowing that images stay in our minds far longer than words. This distracts us not only from the dirty campaign tricks Rove and his underlings pull on political opponents, it distracts us from Bush's own lies. It is truly amazing to anyone who actually reads the news with any care that Bush still carries an image of integrity and morality.

But words speak far more quietly than images to the trusting human mind. There is the famous image of Bush with Mt. Rushmore in the background and with his face being in virtually the same the same perspective as Teddy Roosevelt, suggesting some symbolic similarity between the two.


The March 10, 2003 issue of Newsweek has a large photo of Bush and Jesus, their bodies at the same angle, with the suggestion that Jesus' hand is resting on Bush's shoulder. It is difficult to think this was accidental.

Bush's flight onto the deck of the Kittyhawk, while arriving as freight, led to memorable photographs of a supposedly militarily competent President. Already Tom DeLay is saying Bush landed the aircraft himself, and many will believe him since they do remember Bush in his flight suit on an aircraft carrier.


There is an ominous dimension to these tactics, one as dirty as the politics Rove is suspected of playing during campaigns. Bush will get photo credit for some new initiative, such as leaving "no child behind" and then, when the cameras are absent, fail to fund the legislation. Check our accounts of his failure to follow through on any of his big promises to the American people, especially education.

There is an old term for this: demagoguery. The cynical manipulation of the public to support policies far different from what the politician promises or claims. Demagogues have destroyed democratic government because a democracy needs, at a minimum, some clarity over the issues, some minimal level of truth, some means by which citizens can know for whom to support. The manipulations of images, outright lies, and dumbing down of elections can work Rove has proven this. But it is unlikely to lead to a democratic outcome.

Rove claims to believe in the principles of Madison and Tocqueville, admirable men. But by subjecting every principle to winning, his tactics are undermining the very principles they held to be essential for a free people to survive.

Summing up his conclusions about Rove's character, Suskind wrote: "In any event, it's clear, when I think of my encounter with Rove, why this particular old friend of his, and scores of others-many of whom spoke of the essential good nature of this man who was a teammate on some campaign or other-don't want their names mentioned, ever."

John DiIulio's article: http://www.gregwythe.com/~gregsopi/archives/002687.php

See also:

  American shadow

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