With Karl Rove's announcement that he would be leaving the Bush administration, you'd think he'd committed sepuku on the White House lawn. While Karl will still be punching the clock until the end of the month, most of the editorials about him are breathless and in the past tense. Obituaries for a man beloved by the nation. Karl Rove was a genius. Karl Rove redesigned american politics. Karl Rove was a brilliant tactician. Karl Rove resurrected the GOP. With a good head start and the right shoes, Karl Rove could run up the side of the Capitol and halfway up the dome before gravity realized what he was doing.
Others have been a little more realistic. Karl is no 'genius.' He's just an electoral op who was willing to do anything to get his guy elected. From smear campaigns to Diebold machines to vote caging, Rove's a master only of dishonesty.
But don't tell that to Fred Barnes of the neocon Weekly Standard. In one of the most fawning, idiotic, and embarrassing pieces on Rove I've read, Barnes writes, "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. But he is not a magician."
Not a magician -- nor an enchanted elf nor a unicorn wrangler nor a rainbow builder. Some realism is expected even from neocons.
Even funnier than Barnes' attempt to crawl up Rove's behind and retire there was his editor's total disbelief that Karl Rove could possibly leave when he was so needed (as if all the scandals, investigations, and subpoenas piling up at the White House weren't the reason for his departure). After all, Gen. Petraeus's big announcement that we're going to have a glorious victory in Iraq is coming in September, "If I were President Bush, going into the biggest fight, arguably, of my presidency in September," William Kristol told FOX News, "I think I would want Karl Rove with me in the West Wing."
It's hard to see how Rove could be helpful. He's about dominance, not consensus. Rove, at long last, wound up playing outside his league. His skill was dirty tricks in elections, not good governance. The bully is helpless when he's outnumbered.
But maybe the worst question to ask is one that's been asked since Bush was first [s]elected -- why can't Democrats find their own Karl Rove?
To which I answer, "Oh please God no God no God no no no!"
Look at the state of democracy now and tell me we need to double the damage. That we need long lines at polling places in Republican districts. That we need to find ways to remove legitimate voters from the rolls. That we need more lies, more attacks, and more disinformation in political campaigns. You'll have a hard time convincing me of that.
Perhaps Karl's worst trait -- beyond his appalling lack of morality or ethics -- is that trait he shares with everyone in the White House. True Believerism. It wasn't Reagan who brought down the Soviet Union and it sure as hell wasn't Bush sr. It was Gorbachev, a communist True Believer, who thought that if you gave people a choice, they'd choose soviet communism -- they didn't. They saw it for what it was, an unjust system packaged as fairness.
And so Rove finally brought down the White House with his own brand of True Believerism. He really believed in Bush's economic policies -- disastrous as they've been. As the gap between rich and poor continued to grow, as people found it harder and harder to put money aside, he and the president decided to treat everyone as if they were rich.
After Bush was barely re-elected in a campaign that pushed fear of gay marriage and terrorism, Bush and Rove decided that they'd go ahead with privatizing Social Security -- something they'd barely said a word about in the campaign. It was a classic bait and switch and a damned stupid move. Clearly, Bush's top political adviser knew jack crap about actual politics. He was an election guy and, in his True Believerism, he thought people would come running to this great idea. They didn't. They saw it for what it was, another handout to Wall Street and not at all the product they'd ordered.
"Karl will always be known as a brilliant political operative who has a great tactical sense, but tactics only get you so far. Did they change politics forever? No," says GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio. "At the end of the day, is the party better off today than it was when it was taken over six or seven years ago?" Fabrizio thinks that Rovian tactics have "alienated middle-of-the-road voters and left the party in worse shape."
Still think the dems need their own Karl Rove? The Republican Party is a smoking ruin, the electoral system's a complete mess, Congress is investigating the hell out of the White House, and the entire system has become so politicized that, at one point, NASA officials couldn't even mention global warming or the Big Bang. That sound like a good idea to you?
It may be that the only person who's had anything wise to say about Rove's departure was Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards, who's only statement on the matter was a single sentence, "Goodbye and good riddance."
The GOP can keep their Karl Rove. The Democratic Party -- and, for that matter, democracy -- doesn't need another.
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