Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Demythologizing Karl Rove.

Today at HuffPo, I wrote a piece describing the extent to which the commonly held notion that Karl Rove was some sort of outsized political genius (emphasis on the "outsized," of course, I'm not necessarily calling the man a dumbass) was itself little more than a deeply believed-in piece of media folklore. The real essential takeaway is for you to read Jay Rosen's excellent diagnosis of the press in his piece at PressThink. (Though it's also worth pimping Bill Plante's account of what happened when he chose not to participate in the Legend of Rove.)

At the risk of repeating myself, though, a cleareyed look at Rove's results is in order. Credit him for the two Presidential wins, but try to not get all carried away. If you examine his success in terms of facts and facts alone, what you see is that the Evil Genius scraped out two thin wins against Democratic opponents running campaigns that no one in their right mind would call brilliant. In the first win, of course, there are sober minded, perfectly reasonable people that to this day contest the results. In the second win, a solid three years of 9/11 pageantry-slash-fearmongering only just got the job done.

It doesn't rank among the Top Two Million Reasons You Wish 9-11 Never Happened, but coming in at, let's say, Reason #4,563,239 is this: I would have liked to see what Rove would have done in 2004 with an incumbent best known for a failed economy, moribund job growth, and his oh-so-brilliant handling of the Hainan Island Spy Plane Incident. I'd wager that set of differing circumstances would have halted the "Rove-as-wunderkind" meme dead in its tracks. At the very least, I'd reserve the honorific "genius" for someone who could take the Bush Presidency and get more than 51% of the country excited about it.

That said, the over-fluffing of political strategists is by no means confined to the GOP side of things. Believe it or now, there are still people who hail Terry McAuliffe as some sort of paragon of brilliance. I've never personally seen much to support that contention, other than the fact that he's a fairly telegenic sort of twit.

[Note: I did, in fact, mean to say "Top Two Million Reasons You Wish 9-11 Never Happened." Not "Ever" happened. A thousand thanks to the commenter who spotted my error, and thus saved me from being lumped in with that Stu fellow from Philly.]


Anonymous said...

Do you mean, "Top Two Million Reasons You Wish 9-11 NEVER Happened?" If so, you should correct. You've been quoted at Swampland and it jumps out.

Anonymous said...

Harold Meyerson in the 8/14/07 WaPo had a pretty thorough take down of Rove and his supposed "genius" as well. It is a pretty devastating point-by-point analysis of just how wrong Rove and Bush were.