Meet Karl Rove
This post will not be dealing with whether Rove is technically guilty of outing Valerie Plame to the media. Right wing spinmeisters keep coming up with more technicalities to defend him. He didn’t mention her name when he outed her (after all, Joseph Wilson has so many wives, who could possibly know which wife Rove was talking about), it was raining and he wasn’t wearing a green shirt when he outed her, etc.
Instead we’ll be delving into his political career from 1970 up through the 2000 presidential election.
The information came from here and here.
He’s probably been the most powerful person in our country for the past 4½ years. If you like the direction our government has been going since January 2001, Karl Rove is your hero. He’s the Architect, aka “Boy Genius,” “Bush’s Brain.” On the other hand, if you think something mysterious and terrible happened to our country starting in early 2001, then you probably think Karl Rove is a %$#@&@#!
He almost singlehandedly transformed George W. Bush from a directionless, partying, booze-and-drug-addled playboy and presidential brat into the Leader of the Free World (by way of the Texas governorship). So, who is Karl Rove?
In 1970, a fat dorky teenager volunteered for the campaign of Alan Dixon, a Democratic candidate for State Treasurer of Illinois. (Yes, Democratic — that wasn’t a typo.) He didn’t stay long, and hardly anyone noticed him while he was there. He stayed long enough to swipe several boxes of Dixon’s campaign stationery. And soon thousands of invitations — on Dixon’s campaign letterhead — began circulating through the red-light district and various soup kitchens. The invitations read “free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing” at Dixon’s headquarters.
It was a funny prank, with hundreds of heavy drinkers and homeless people pouring into Dixon’s office. It didn’t derail his campaign, though — Dixon was elected treasurer and later became a senator. But little Karl Rove was getting his feet wet.
Rove had some shitty breaks during his early life (who didn’t?), which may have deleted any remaining semblance of a conscience or moral compass. When he was 19 his father walked out on the family. Soon afterward, Karl found out (from an aunt and uncle) that this wasn’t even his real father. Twelve years later his mother committed suicide.
Like Dick Cheney and other ferocious hawks in the Bush administration, Rove went to college to avoid the Viet Nam war (he never graduated). While he was there — University of Utah — he sharpened his political hardball tactics when he decided to take control of the College Republicans. Instead of campaigning on the issues, Rove challenged the credentials of each and every one of his opponent’s delegates. It worked. 22-year-old Karl Rove was going places.
During this period Rove was working with Lee Willie Horton Atwater, who later got George H.W. Bush into the White House by smearing and destroying his opponent. Atwater’s campaign tactics — this was 1988 — were considered at the time to be the lowest, sleaziest, most execrable campaign tactics in our history.
Rove was also active — behind the scenes — in Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, helping to paint World War II bomber pilot George McGovern as a soft wussy peacenik.
In 1973 Rove and a colleague were touring the country, giving “political combat training” lectures to young Republicans. Some of the how-to information included Rove’s earlier “prank” at Alan Dixon’s campaign headquarters, and the tactics he had used for wresting control of the College Republicans.
During this period, Rove became friends with a former Texas Congressman struggling to keep his political career going: George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush Senior hired Rove and brought him to Washington.
Shortly afterward, Rove met Boy George, and he was smitten. “Huge amounts of charisma, swagger, cowboy boots, flight jacket, wonderful smile, just charisma — you know, wow," Rove recalled. In the late ’70s, Rove was sent to Texas. Officially, his assignment was to run a political action committee. Unofficially, he was sent to “handle” the president’s boozing carousing son.
During this time he set up a direct mail operation — sending fundraising or voter registration letters to targeted voters. He tailored each letter to the specific voter group he was targeting. He had an uncanny skill for knowing exactly which buttons to push for which groups. This is a much more common political skill nowadays, but back then Rove (along with rightwing direct-mail wizard Richard Viguerie) was on the cutting edge. They both seemed like human Geiger counters when it came to scoping out very specific groups of voters and knowing exactly what to say to them and how to get them to the polls.
The 1980s were a turning point in Texas politics. The Democrats had been the dominant party since the civil war era. But the Democratic party was moving further to the left, and most of the newcomers pouring into Texas’ suburban communities were Republicans. Election by election, post by post, Republicans were inching their way in and taking over the state. And Rove was playing a hand in all this.
In 1986 Rove was running the gubernatorial campaign for Republican Bill Clements. Clements was neck-and-neck with his Democratic opponent. How to break the stalemate? Rove announced that he had found a listening device in his office, and he went screaming to the media about the scandal, the shock, the disgrace. An outraged public tilted toward Clements, who ended up winning the election.
No listening device was ever found, and Rove never mentioned it again after the election. Lots of Texans thought Rove concocted the whole thing as a campaign stunt. What, he’d stoop to something like that?!?
In 1994 Anne Richards (Democrat) was finishing her first term as governor and was running for re-election. Her opponent was George W. Bush, and Rove was his campaign manager. Everyone on Anne Richards’ campaign staff thought this was hilarious: the boozing partying presidential brat was running for governor? Hahahahahaha. The laughter died down soon enough.
Richards’ campaign adviser said “We did not believe that Bush would be as disciplined as he was. He was extremely disciplined.” He also said “Karl gave him 10 index cards and said, ‘This is what you are going to say. Don't confuse yourself with the issues.’ It's the model for the presidency.”
During the campaign, voters began receiving phone calls from alleged “pollsters” asking questions like “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Governor Richards if you knew her staff is dominated by lesbians?” Richards’ campaign adviser knew who was behind these “questions” (although no Rove connection could be proven). He said “Rove has used this kind of dirty tricks in every campaign he's ever run.”
For Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, Rove dreamed up that phony “compassionate conservatism” slogan that Bush kept repeating. After drumming this new buzzword into the American psyche, the next problem was John McCain, who had the nerve to run against Bush in the Republican primary.
McCain was a decorated Viet Nam war hero who had spent several years in a Vietnamese prison camp. This made an embarrassing contrast to Baby Bush using his family connections to get into the Texas Air Guard during the Viet Nam war. (There was a 3-year waiting list to get into the Guard, and then suddenly there was an opening for little Georgie. Connect the dots.)
On top of that, McCain had a certain charisma, based on his plain-spoken straight-talking bluntness. This created a painful contrast with Bush’s memorized cue card lines and his frantic determination to stay “on message.” What to do?
Rove orchestrated a rumor campaign. Probably his dirtiest rumor was that McCain was a stoolie while he was in the Vietnamese prison camp. That’s doubtful, but in any case, let’s see how long Karl and his five chins would last in a city jail overnight, let alone a POW camp in Viet Nam.
Another Rove-generated rumor was that McCain had illegitimately fathered a black daughter. The truth turned out to be that McCain had adopted a daughter. The girl was from Bangladesh. But what the hey, they all look alike, right?
Rove also spread rumors about the “drug problems” of McCain’s wife. (Ever notice — Republicans always go after the wives. Hmmm…why is this and what does it say about them?)
Rumors spread, damage done. Mission accomplished.
McCain turned out to be little more than a speed bump on Karl and George’s road to the White House.
During the stalemate period from election day until mid-December when the Supreme Court, uh, “selected” Bush, Rove again had to reach into his little bag of sleaze. When Florida officials were recounting and evaluating the ballots, they were charged and threatened and intimidated by an angry mob of protesters. These scary, out-of-control “protesters” turned out to be a bunch of Republican operatives from Washington, D.C. They had been hired by — yup, you guessed it — Karl Rove. He hired them, put them on a bus to Florida and told them what to do when they got there.
OK, we’ve had a little glimpse into Rove’s character and the history of his political tactics. So, what do you all think? Let’s hear from you. Does Karl Rove seem like the kind of political manipulator who would leak a CIA agent’s name to the press just to get even with her husband? Think he did it?
Answers in the Comment section (sorry Gindy).
cross-posted at Bring It On!