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On Rove, and The Big Bad GOP
December 13, 2003
By David Friedman

I have some advice for all of you. Ignore the GOP until next fall. I don't mean ignore them in the "let them get away with saying whatever they want" sense. I mean ignore the quality of their argument in the sense that they have Karl Rove at the helm of their political ship. In order to beat Rove, you have to understand what's behind the words coming out of his mouth. And by Rove's mouth, I mean the collective mouths of his many, many, many surrogates. Why ignore those words? Because Rove is a spin-master. He is Ari Fliescher on crack. He will do everything in his power to frame the debate. It doesn't matter the sins of his masters, the debate never centers on that - because Rove spins faster than a supermassive black-hole.

Rove's astronomical spin machine already has a good number of you convinced that our worst commander in chief, quite possibly ever, is unbeatable. He has you convinced of this because he is good at his job. Really, really good. Hell, he made George W. Bush President (some might say it's Scalia's fault, but Rove deserves his due) - and that's an accomplishment, for sure. He made a good number of you believe the GOP has a mandate, despite losing the popular vote in 2000. He even has spun relatively small victories in the south (please look away from Louisiana), and a resulting small majority in congress as proof that the GOP is unbeatable. Yes, Karl Rove is worth his weight in gold to the Neoconservative movement.

So how does Rove do it? By any means necessary, really. Mostly though, he likes to play on people's fears. This has been a marketing ploy of the GOP for some time now, yet Rove has taken it to absurd levels never dreamed possible. Who would have thought three years ago, when Al Gore and Democrats decided to give Bush the benefit of the doubt, swallowed hard, and showed bipartisanship after the contentious election - that Rove and company would exploit a national tragedy to push their Neoconservative agenda (can you say "Iraq"?). Well some of us knew, but it's sad that we have to be so cynical. Regardless, Rove, more so than any other in the White House, is responsible for the success of the GOP. He has many convinced that Bush was the great uniter after 9/11. Sorry, Mr. Rove, it was Osama bin Laden that united us, albeit briefly - no thanks to you and your Neocon strategery.

So, what is spin, anyway? You are going to get a different answer from everybody you ask. This, in itself defines spin. The truth is relative to whomever you are asking. Rove, however, likes to play games with his spin on the truth, and is especially adept at sowing doubt in the minds of his adversaries. He does this with "dis"information, and sometimes outright lies. He doesn't want you to see his hand, yet he wants you to believe you have. Using this philosophy to maximum effect, he has created an aura of invincibility, albeit a fake one.

Take for example his known antics. An "accidentally" released campaign strategy disk. A leak here, a leak there (you'd be amazed at the plumbing problems of the GOP). Theories that he had the office of his own candidate bugged (way back in his early Texas days) in order to create the appearance of controversy. He shows up himself at a Fourth of July Parade saying he wants Howard Dean to be the GOP's opponent in 2004. All trademark Atwater tactics Rove has taken to new levels.

With Rove it is always smoke and mirrors. And the most important rule of all... IGNORE HYPOCRISY. This more than anything defines the Neocon movement in so many ways. Just ask true fiscal-conservatives boiling mad over out-of-control spending by the Bush administration - at the same time Neocons in Bush's camp say Howard Dean is a tax-and-spend liberal. All of this, of course, designed to show supposed strength and invincibility. Eventually, if the other side goes along, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Kudos to the Rove strategy. It works well.

So, how do you fight that?

You don't fight that, you can't. You just smile, point it out, and remind everyone it's dirty politics.

There's a remarkably good analogy for Rove-think, and it comes, unsurprisingly, from the corporate world these folks emerged from. Lets take for example the financial statements of any one of a number of recent corporate power-houses, like Enron. On the surface they look like an unstoppable empire. Dig any deeper, though, and that empire collapses faster than you can say "Ken Lay is a good friend and a top campaign contributor". Aside from being top contributors and subscribers to the current philosophy of Neocon economic policy, many of those at the top of these crumbled empires believed their own spin - that they could get away with whatever they wanted, as long as the people were buying it. It's a miniature version of capitalism gone awry (people will buy whatever you are selling, especially if you are a good salesman) - except that it requires you to forget there are human beings involved, and no matter how good your spin, people eventually catch on.

I'm here to tell you the Bush political machine is an Enron waiting to happen. If it looks like an Enron, talks like an Enron, and acts like an Enron (and we all know it does)... it's probably an Enron. In physics it's called Ockham's Razor. George W. Bush is Ken Lay, and Karl Rove is his marketing guru, painting over the doctoring of the books every day.

There's a reason they describe Bush as a CEO President, it's because he is. It's his style. It's Cheney's style. It's Condi's style. It's Rove's style. Image is everything in the corporate world. Never let them see you sweat. Business is booming. Strength, strength, strength. The arrow is pointing up. We've made up some charts and graphs to prove it.

It's a cut-throat world out there, and Bushco fits right in. Cheney's statement on having to work with "undesirables" in the war on terror sounded more like a secret business strategy than moral leadership. Don Evans speaking of rolling out their Iraq strategy as "new marketing" just before 2002 elections was a rare moment of non-spun corporate truth. Bush's Thanksgiving in Baghdad and Mission Accomplished fiascos made for glowing press releases, but said nothing about the condition of his corporate empire.

So when you get down to it, beneath all the glitz and glamour, George W. Bush's political marketing guru has really only done his CEO one favor (although it will ultimately be his downfall). His immaculate spin has branded Bush as the big bad wolf of politics. A big, scary, tooth-gnashing political beast - charging forward towards corporate dominance and Republican glory.

Yet, start digging (which they will do everything in their power to stop), and you'll find the one thing Karl Rove is afraid of. The fact that his big bad wolf lives in a straw house. And I for one can see the political winds shifting, threatening to blow down that house.

I think America is waking up to the fact that what it needs in these times more than marketing strategies and talking points - is true leadership. What it needs more than carefully crafted image, slogans, soundbytes and spin - is policy based on what's best for ALL Americans - not just one's corporate soulmates. Have we forgotten? The United States of America is not a corporation. It is a country of profound beauty and diversity of people and opinion. We, the people, should not be treated as employees. The country belongs to us. Stop telling us everything is perfect, we know it's not the truth.

To Karl Rove and his super-massive black hole I say this: Stop selling us product. Our country needs a President, not a CEO. Your spin to the contrary is nothing but a big bad bluff.

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