The End of the Rove
October 26, 2006
Two weeks away from the midterms, and the Republicans are engaging in dirty tricks, lying about the war, and dodging their disastrous record.
But they do not appear to have formulated a strategy that's likely to put their candidates over the top. Karl Rove to the contrary--in his dramatically tetchy interview on NPR Wednesday, the "architect" insisted the Republicans would retain control of the House and Senate--things are not looking too good.
One positive effect of Republican disarray is that the Rove style of politics--distracting voters from the issues that matter with divisive tabloid gossip--may finally fail.
Rove's style of politics, if not his actual fingerprints, were all over the low-blow political ad in Tennessee that featured a white woman winking and leering about meeting immensely popular African American candidate Harold Ford at a "Playboy party." The Republicans never expected the threat Ford poses to their Republican-held Senate seat in Tennessee. No African American has won there since Reconstruction.
Playing the race card at the end of the campaign is a classic dirty trick in the mold of the Rove-inspired innuendo about John McCain's "black child" in the South Carolina Presidential primary. This time, the strategy seems to have backfired, though. The ad itself has become a focus of attention, instead of Ford's sex life.
Ford has a winning comeback: "You know your opponent is scared when the main opposition against you is, 'my opponent likes girls.'"
Look for more sleaze as Election Day draws near. The landmark New Jersey court decision backing full rights for gay couples will no doubt provide some fodder for God, guns, and gays distraction.
On Iraq, the President's Wednesday news conference—in which he admitted failures including "the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, the fact that we did not find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the continued loss of some of America's finest sons and daughters"—did nothing to shore up confidence. October has been the most deadly month for U.S. troops in the last year. Death squad activity has made Baghdad even less safe than it was a year ago. The civil war raging in Iraq shows no signs of letting up.
Maybe that's why White House Press Secretary Tony Snow announced that "stay the course" is no longer Administration policy in Iraq. The U.S. plan needs to be "flexible" as the situation there changes.
Weaving off course, without any clear plan, isn't much better than pursuing a disastrous policy full-throttle, though.
In that context, Senator Bill Frist, among other Republicans, has said the candidates running in the midterm elections need "to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issues."
But pocketbook issues are hardly the Republicans' strong suit. Gas prices, the economy, the deficit, and political corruption have soured middle class voters on Republican leadership, polls show.
That leaves sleaze, the culture wars, and fear.
Karl Rove is right about one thing: The Democrats, he said on NPR, have a "dramatically unclear" message on Iraq and other issues.
The midterms, he says, are "not about party, but about individual candidates."
Likewise, David Brooks observes in The New York Times that the era of ideological conservatism is over. Independent candidates like John McCain are the future, he asserts, since the Bush style of governance has been discredited. Sounds like a convenient refuge for a former booster of the Bush revolution. But it's true that voter disgust with the Republicans does not add up to a rise in Democratic partisans.
However things turn out in November, one positive effect of Republican disarray is that the Rove style of politics--distracting voters from the issues that matter with divisive tabloid gossip--may finally fail.