Rove, and The Big Bad GOP
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
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
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