Column for 19 August, 2007
“Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!”
And so Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove rides off into the sunset, to spend his days in quiet contemplation, surrounded by family, friends and loved ones. And leaving behind him the smoldering wreckage of the Bush Presidency, the Republic Party, and the entire tone of political discourse in America. He went out in true Rove fashion, defiantly proclaiming to the Wall Street Journal that he would not be ridden out of town by “the mob” (by which I assume he means the 62% of Americans who fail to appreciate his greatest creation, the Franken-President; or perhaps the 70% of Americans who fail to appreciate him); absurdly claiming that his only real regret was his asinine “MC Rove” rap routine at White House Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner; and whining to Rush Limbaugh that his critics were really Bush’s critics and were “elite, effete snobs” who lack the “common sense” of the President (a hilarious accusation coming from an Administration so aristocratic it makes pre-Revolutionary France look like a tractor-pull). While it’s true that Democrats and Liberals often inflated his “boy genius” into something like a combination of Machiavelli and Lex Luthor, some conservatives are close to deifying him in political death. Fred Barnes, in particular, slathers him with so much praise in the Weekly Standard (“Rove is the greatest political mind of his generation and probably of any generation. He not only is a breathtakingly smart strategist but also a clever tactician. He knows history, understands the moods of the public, and is a visionary on matters of public policy”) that one is tempted to shout “Get a room!” It should be noted, though, that not all on the Right were as kind, blaming Rove (because Bush, in their world, is simply above blame, much like the Japanese Emperor before WWII) for the “immigration reform” plan which they despised as insufficiently cruel to brown people. Rove’s ideas were not original. Kevin Phillips came up with the idea of the Southern Strategy for a Permanent Republican Majority some forty years ago, when Rove was still a junior ranger in the Nixon Dirty Tricks Campaign (complete with decoder ring). His bold strategy in 2004 for re-electing an un-elected President was, essentially, “increase voter turnout,” not exactly the Unified Field Theory of political campaign planning. Moreover, it’s probably not very likely that the Rove plan for permanent GOP electoral dominance would ever have worked, even if the Bush Administration had not turned out to be a train wreck managed by incompetents, fanatics and buffoons. Treating a narrow majority as a broad mandate worked as a governing strategy, at least while Bush was popular, but it fell apart as soon as his numbers tanked into the Nixon Memorial Sub-basement. Give the man credit for this, though; no Democrat who lost the popular vote for President (and the electoral vote, but for legal chicanery, political thuggery and rank judicial activism) would have ever had the sheer brass monkeys to push a hard-line agenda through Congress as though he had just been swept in with a Reaganesque tidal wave. President Al Gore would’ve continued trying to negotiate with Congressional Republicans even as they gnawed his ankles off. And, of course, the other effect of this strategy of blowing off bipartisanship and despising moderation is that the American body politic is probably more polarized now than at any time since the ‘sixties; which was, of course, Rove’s plan all along. His mistake was in assuming that liberalism would remain a dirty word. By knocking off and marginalizing moderate Democrats, the Republicans did in fact push the Democratic Party further to the Left. Unfortunately for Rove, the country moved with them, placing the GOP in very real risk of becoming an irrelevant regional party of the Deep South (sort of the like the Democrats were from 1876-1932). This is due in part to a further fading of Rove’s successes; Hispanics who were once attracted to Bush are leaving in droves and even white Evangelical Protestants (basically Bush’s only current support) are cooling to the Republican touch. Ironically, Rove can take some comfort in the fact that he leaves behind many protégés who are adopting his policy of tight campaign controls and a focused message, none more so than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appears to be grinding inexorably toward the Democratic nomination. Not sure how much comfort Karl will take in that, though his flawed magic eight ball predicts both her nomination and her defeat. And, of course, let it never be forgotten that he managed to turn a mediocre non-entity whose only claim to fame was his parentage into Governor of Texas and President of the United States. Perhaps based on that, there has been speculation that Rove still has magic left, either for the failing non-campaign of that one-dimensional fraud Fred Thompson, or maybe even Senator John Cornyn, currently only slightly more popular than the Asian Bird Flu. But then again, maybe Rove is telling the truth and his magical math is telling him to retire to his Hill Country estate, spending time with his family, perhaps doing some teaching. And, of course, dodging Congressional subpoenas. So long, Karl. Don’t let the door knob hit you on the way out.