Friday, July 15, 2005

The Puppetmaster Myth

Over at Dan Drezner's blog, a reader posts the following:
All questions of criminality aside, Karl Rove is essentially a campaign consultant, an electioneering hand. There is no way on earth that he should ever have been within ten miles of anything having to do with CIA, foreign policy, or national security. There is no way any reporter should have granted him anonymity while using him as a source on a story of this kind.

Democrats who know that Bob Shrum would have taken up in a Kerry administration much the same role Rove has in this one -- indeed, who are so dependent on campaign consultants that they can't imagine another arrangement -- have never objected in a serious way to Rove's position in the Bush White House, until about three days ago. But in truth Rove's role in this administration has been an invitation to trouble from the very beginning.

Campaign operatives who can do government work at a high level are pretty rare -- the skills required for the two fields are very different. One can see this whenever political professionals -- the Carvilles, Begalas, Matalins and so forth -- show up on the tube and start discussing substance. There's no nice way to say this: they're idiots. Morons. They don't know anything, and they don't care. They can come very close to power if they work for politicians who become dependent on them during a campaign, and George Bush became very dependent indeed on Karl Rove. All domestic policy now goes through Rove's office, one reason domestic policy in this administration moves forward like molasses in January when it moves at all. And Rove has enough independence that he gets to muck around on things like the Niger uranium business.

Well, Bush asked for trouble when he brought this person into the White House, and now he's got it.
This strikes me as an excellent fundamental point, and one I touched on in this post. By nature, Rove is essentially a professional campaign manager. He's a partisan operative. But the public has never elected him to any office in his life, and he defines lack of accountability.

An unelected official must be held to at least the same standard---and preferably an even higher one---as an elected official. That goes double for someone like Rove, whose tentacles reach into every nook and cranny of this administration's operations. As the poster above writes, "There is no way on earth that he should ever have been within ten miles of anything having to do with CIA, foreign policy, or national security." Bush's failure of leadership is that he should have realized this. But he put ambition and personal loyalty above the national interest. It's not as if anything in Rove's past should have put Bush on guard for this type of problem, right? Certainly not the fact that his own father had to fire Rove from his re-election campaign in 1992 for---yes---supposedly leaking to Robert Novak.

What an incredible turnabout in political ideology. Can you imagine how Republicans, conservatives, and the Limbaughs and Hannitys would be howling about intrusive government, unaccountable abuses of power and indeed treason if, instead of Karl Rove, we were talking about James Carville?

And in terms of the mental acuity of the Carvilles, Begalas, and Matalins that the poster references? I've seen tapes of Rove speaking several times, most recently when he derided "the motives of liberals." Maybe it's because I don't live in D.C. or work in politics---and if so, that's a good thing---but I just don't get it. By all accounts he's great at his "job." But he strikes me as an utter dolt: a boorish, brutish bumpkin. Some people are social climbers; he comes across to me as an intellectual climber, increasingly aspiring to play the role of a highbrow, erudite, ideological seer for which he is uniquely unsuited. His bailiwick is sitting in a campaign office in a sleepy, dusty west Texas town on a hot day in the middle of August---not perched a few feet away from the Oval Office trafficking in national secrets while our troops fight overseas. So when I hear the Rove-as-all-powerful puppetmaster platitudes---usually coming from a press that should be investigating, not fawning---it strikes me as utterly discordant.

Could the gap between the myth and the reality of Karl Rove account for the mess he finds himself in right now?


Blogger Mark Jones said...

I was beginning to think that I was the only person who didn't think that Karl Rove is:
a.) genius (Cohen - WP)
b.) brilliant (Dionne - WP)
c.) patriot (Derbyshire - NR)
d.) maestro (Brooks - NYT)
e.) smartest guy in the room(any TV pundit)
Admittedly, alot of these descriptions were preceded by the word "political". Nevertheless, its been more than a little nauseating to listen to inside the beltway pundits talk about Rove as being the brains behind GB(admittedly, not a very difficult task). The guy has been (always will be) a political bag man, who happened to latch on (or was it the other way around) to a great meal ticket. Nothing more, nothing less. If this episode does nothing else, I hope it finally exposes (if only temporarily, since the MSM has an attention span of about 2 days)Mr. Rove as the bagman that he is. And, being a bagman has nothing to do with genius, brilliance or being a partriot.

7/15/2005 9:45 AM  
Blogger owenz said...

One can blame the press all they want for fawning over his "puppetmaster" persona, but Karl Rove controls the Republican Party. Completely and totally. At every level.

Really, you can hardly blame the media for being slightly in awe of the spectacle of the entire Republican machine revving to life in support of a single political hack. Repubican presidential cabinet members, senators, congressman, and media surrogates have united in a stunning show of message control. Their utter contempt for the argument that Rove should be fired for his misdeeds is striking. Their total unwillingness to make moral judgments about his actions is sad. Their willingness to excuse behavior they concede may be illegal is breathtaking.

Honestly, I don't understand how any true conservative can call him or herself a Republican at this point. The party you knew and belonged to is dead. It has been replaced with something debased and frightening. Rove epitomizes what the party has become.

Their attack on Wilson and perhaps Fitzgerald will make the destruction of Richard Clarke look tame. Wilson, after all, has engaged the true power in the party.


7/15/2005 9:55 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

Over the last few days, I've been reminded of the study that suggested that in general people's choice of political party has little to do with their convictions--choice of party comes first, and then the political viewpoint follows (sorry, can't find the reference at the moment). Cognitive dissonance plays a part in one's behavior in this as well, of course.

It's hard for me to otherwise understand how people who seem to consider themselves to be patriotic and believers in a strong America can be defending Rove and taking part in the campaign to discredit Wilson and Plame, two people whose past actions have shown them to be patriotic Americans without a doubt and perhaps even heroic.

7/15/2005 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Between your post and Paul Krugman's Times column today, everything that's wrong with Rove and the BushCo government is fully explained. People who are less cynical than I am have given the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt for past five years. And the craven Washington press core has helped things along by retailing empty party spin and shameless dissembling. It's too bad that honest Republicans have been tainted by the ascendency of Rove and his ilk. But as the ugly results of his influence become more difficult to ignore, maybe the voters can take some steps to help the country regain its equilibrium.

7/15/2005 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rove isn't a genius. He's a sociopath. He's a tubby Ted Bundy who chose another line of work.

Now, sociopaths have certain tactical advantages. A lack of conscience, unpredictability, and willingness to do *anything* is very useful in politics. Perhaps this is what is mistaken for "genius". That the press fawns and drools at bended knee for this guy is a sign of their decadence, not his genius.

7/15/2005 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Karl Rove is considered the power behind the throne explains alot about the mess we find ourselves in today; not the least of which is Iraq, that war we got into using bogus intel foisted on the American public that Wilson was trying to discredit.

New bumper sticker:

TREASON!: It's OK if you're a Republican.

7/15/2005 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things that has puzzled me about Rove is the lack of sustained serious scrutiny he has gotten.
For example, Steve Clemons has been talking about John Bolton on a daily basis for months now, researching and driving the opposition to Bolton's nomination. He has been tremendously effective.
Why is it that no journalist or blogger does the same for Rove? For example, I have seen only the most cursory references to Rove's finances, a subject which should be a high priority for ANY political official.
Also, although the information is probably out there, many journalists seem not to know whether Rove is married or single, or has any children, previous marriages, etc.

In addition, since day 1, people should have been scrutinizing and recording every public statement of Rove, and yet that has not happened.

How is it that we know so much less about this enormously powerful man than about, say, Joe Wilson, who is not 1/10th as important?

Can someone explain this?
It is not to late for an all rove blog to appear.
As a matter of fact, now would be a great time.

Is there a Steve Clemons for Rove?

7/15/2005 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy do we need intellectual honesty but all we are getting is spin, lies, innuendos, gossip and attacks.

Where are all the good descent Republicans that really stand for something, on their own, and not because Karl Rove put it into a talking points memo.

I've been reading a lot about Bush and Karl Rove, and it makes me think about the "self-made" man, but in Bush's case it is the "rove-made" man. Bush was rich, unsuccessful, and drifting. Rove molded him. I suspect this is why public appearances are controlled and the public isn't welcomed by Bush because he psychologically can not do it. He needs Rove to tell him what he stands for, who his base is, and what to say. I think that is why the Republicans are so hateful and angry. They only know what they stand for him someone tells them, therefore they fall for anything. They are very insecure bunch of folks.

For most normal people it is hard to understand that people can be so ruthless to one another just because they can. Rove knows no bounds and I have no idea in the world why this campaign political man is sitting in the White House with security clearance.

Where is Karl Rove going with dividing our country, peddling lies, gossip, and innuendos, endangering our national security? Where is he taking our America?

Is Fox really a news station or is it just a fancy version of the National Enquirer?

What is the measure of a good man? And does anyone care anymore? Does anyone want their kids to grow up and be just like Karl Rove, Tom Delay, Randy Cunningham, Dennis Hastert? Icks!

7/15/2005 3:21 PM  
Anonymous semper fubar said...

Where are all the good descent Republicans that really stand for something

I think we saw where they stood in November. They stand with Bush and his henchman Rove. They stand for power and greed. They stand for party politics over what's right for the country. And now we're all surprised by the results?

I hope that Fitzgerald can bring down this whole sordid mess (though in my more pessimistic moments I believe Bush, Cheney and the whole criminal gang will slip through the net), because I know we can't rely on our own citizenry to do it. Very discouraging.

7/15/2005 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Shep said...

And where are the polls on this?

"Should President Bush fire Karl Rove?"

"Do you think Karl Rove is guilty of treason?"

"Was Karl Rove right to consider Valerie Plame 'fair game'?"

Don't know why we haven't seen them yet in this two-week old hyper scandal. Surely the independent pollsters will be rolling questions like these out any day now, huh?

7/15/2005 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question.
Are there "independent" pollsters?

7/15/2005 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Shep said...

I remember back in 2002, when the polls were showing overwhelming support for Bush, I had liberal friends who took it as an article of faith that the polls were rigged. They said it was obvious from talking to people that Bush's support was mixed at best. I always countered by saying that, disgusting as the media in general are in their lap dog ways, polling was different. Pre-election polls were testable. Furthermore, any bias one poll may have, as some obviously do, is counteracted not only by polls with the opposite political leanings, but by polls that truly try to be objective.

In other words, I would tell my jaded friends, even if other polls were 'fixed', that would leave room in the marketplace for an objective poll to show a large discrepancy with the others. I found, and find, it impossible to accept that ALL polls are fraudulent or heavily biased. Just doesn't make sense.

Now, if we don't see any Rove polls soon, I'm not sure what to make of it. But I trust we'll see them popping up any day now.

7/15/2005 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will adopt a wait and see attitude. Jaded, I am but not yet inflexible.

7/15/2005 8:10 PM  
Blogger Antonie said...

Another great post. Your breed of conservatives is rapidly becoming extinct.

7/16/2005 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article

Rove may not be the target

7/16/2005 8:01 PM  
Anonymous exclab said...

Rove provides the dems with the scandal narcotic they so much want to keep their mind off their lack of an agenda. The republicans have got them addictied to it. Whether he hangs or not is not the issue. Like the other so called geniuses in the White House, he is not actually all that much of a threat. The real threat to the dems are the dems. For them to continue in the face of such lunacy in the white house without a program of some kind is pathetic.

As to Shep: I am not sure what you mean. Duplicitous lap dog behavior is alive and well in the republican party as in any sector of the communications industry. The republicans are just as venal as the dems or the media. It has always been so. Conservatives seem to want to find morality in politics. If that doesn't indicate their naivette, what will? Anyway, they find their politics of morality in the republican party, a party not known for its clean face. But I guess if you sincerely wish to find something your mind can fool itself into thinking it has found it.

7/17/2005 11:32 AM  
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