Sunday, October 22, 2006

Judging Rove: Genius or fraud?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Note: This was originally posted at The Carpetbagger Report -- click here. It provoked an interesting discussion in the comments section, and I invite you to check it out.)

This one's from a few days ago, but I just got around to reading Jacob Weisberg's latest piece at Slate. Here's his opening paragraph:

Is Karl Rove the great mastermind of American politics? Everyone seems to think so. George W. Bush's nicknames for him include "The Architect" and "Boy Genius." Other Republicans see Rove as a shaman who can conjure victory out of the air—and Democrats agree. (They would rather think they've been losing to a nefarious wizard than to a lazy moron.) The political press, always more comfortable with personality than ideology, cottons readily to the myth that the country is run by an elusive puppeteer.

Weisberg calls himself "possibly the last Rove skeptic," although he certainly isn't, and he makes the case here that "the largest part of [Rove's] success is arguably due to luck and circumstances beyond his control". Just go back to 2000. Bush should have lost. Or, rather, he did lose. Rove was only vindicated by a crappy Florida ballot, with Jewish seniors voting for Pat Buchanan, and self-contradictory kingmakers on the Supreme Court. And then there was 9/11, which provided President Bush with one of the mot luxurious honeymoons in presidential history.

Of course, it is conventional wisdom that Rove's "base strategy" won Bush a second term, but, even there, it could be argued that Rove was simply in the right place at the right time with the right issues: terrorism and same-sex marriage. And on the policy side, such as social security privatization, Rove has been a failure, not unlike pretty much everyone else in the White House.

So here's my question: Is it true, as the implication has gone, that Democrats have nothing to fear but Karl Rove himself? Do you fear Rove? Even now, with all those promising poll numbers suggesting impending Democratic victory, is there not a nagging doubt? Is there not that little voice saying, "Just wait, Rove's up to something, he'll pull something out of his hat at the last minute, let's not get too excited, he's a genius and he'll find a way to take us down"?

It may be too late for Republicans regardless. What with Iraq and a sagging economy and Foleygate and… well, you know the list. But what if North Korea conducts a larger nuclear test? What if those warnings of a dirty bomb at an NFL game continue? What if the GOP's culture of fear magnetizes voters again? What if… ?

I'm with Weisberg in my assessment of Rove's talent: He's really good at what he does, but not the mastermind some make him out to be. And yet there's that little voice whispering irrational nothings in my ear: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Karl Rove, "Boy Genius," is still in control.

Has it reached a point where we just expect to lose?

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