Rove Fingerprints on Romney’s Attacks on Obama


Wayne Slater is a top-rank Texas political writer and co-author of “Bush’s Brain,” a book about the life and times of Republican uber-strategist Karl Rove.

In an interview several years ago with PBS’s “Frontline,” Slater described one of the most counter-intuitive, and most effective, hallmarks of the consultant George W. Bush called Turd Blossom: aggressive assaults on what appear to be his enemy’s greatest assets.

Most memorably manifest in 2004’s sleazy Bush IE attacks on John Kerry’s Vietnam service, Rove also employed the jujitsu play in the 1994 Texas governor’s race, using Ann Richards’ politics of fairness and tolerance to portray her as an anti-religious firebrand for gay rights, and in the 2000 GOP presidential primary, using surrogates shamefully to question John McCain’s patriotism during his years as a POW. According to Slater:

Very early on, Karl Rove did something that many other political operatives don’t do, and it’s really an element of why he’s a unique figure in American political life: He understands that while other people look for the weakness in an opponent and exploit that, Rove has long looked at the strength of an opponent…

It’s a pattern we’ve seen again and again and again…attack the strength of your opponent. If your opponent’s strength is his service in Vietnam , then attack that service by raising questions about whether it was all that noble…

Kama Sutra Spices: With Rove and his zillion-dollar American Crossroads IE taking a lead role in Mitt Romney’s bid to oust Barack Obama from the White House, it’s instructive that the first two skirmishes Mittens has chosen to engage on since securing the GOP nomination are the president’s greatest strengths: the bail-out of the auto industry and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Not since Jesus whaled on the Pharisees about that whole mint, dill and cumin thing, of course, has there been such a supreme display of hypocrisy as Romney’s forays into those two issues.

In the last three years, Mittens has taken more positions than the Kama Sutra on the auto bail-out; as recently as the Michigan primary, he declared that the Administration’s demonstrably successful policy “was the wrong way to go.”

His signature statement on the issue was his New York Times op-ed piece, published just two weeks after Obama’s election in 2008, titled  “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

So it’s difficult not to choke over the incredible gall displayed by chief Mittens mouthpiece Eric “Etch-a-Sketch” Fehrnstrom, who claimed this week that Obama only acted after ripping off Romney’s idea for saving GM and Chrysler:

“His position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed…The only economic success that President Obama has had is because he followed Mitt Romney’s advice.”

And for those keeping score at home: black is white, down is up and no is yes.

Obama, Carter and Osama: That bit of Phariseeism, of course, was nothing compared to the fuss the Romney-Rove axis has tried to raise with its incessant whining that Obama is “politicizing” the U.S. takeout of bin Laden by, you know, mentioning it.

Had it been Bush, or any other Republican president, who whacked Osama, of course, the halls of Congress would be piled high with bills proposing to erect a statue of him on Capitol Mall. Beyond the now-iconic “Mission Accomplished” Bush aircraft carrier strut, there’s also the small matter that W. used the kickoff of his 2004 re-elect as an occasion for dragging out all the 9/11 footage to contrast himself with the Democrats and to crow about his purported success in the War on Terror.

Especially loathsome was Romney’s claim the other day that sending the Navy Seals into Pakistan to capture or kill Osama was such an obvious decision that “even Jimmy Carter” would have done it. What foul sludge!

Let’s put aside Carter’s years of honorable duty as a Naval officer compared to Mitt spending his prime military service years bicycling through France in a blazer and tie; Carter took a huge (and ultimately debilitating) risk by sending Marine helicopters into Iran in 1980 to try to rescue American hostages. It was a tough call that took great courage — just like Obama’s decision, against the advice of many of his senior advisers and with only scant support from CIA intelligence, to send Seal Team Six into Abbottabad last May.

Oh, and are we now supposed to forget that in 2007, Romney said he would NOT go into Pakistan unilaterally to take out bin Laden and that Obama’s statement that he would do just that were “ill-timed” and “ill-considered?” Rack up another one for no means yes.

What infuriates the right wing is that they simply can’t stand seeing the other side doing exactly what they’ve done for years.

Muddying the waters: The merits of the case aside, however, what’s politically most troublesome for Obama is that Romney’s challenges on the two most unqualified successes of his first term somewhat undercuts them, as the Republicans seek to frame the bin Laden issue as a question of Obama’s alleged narcisisstic triumphalism and the auto bail-out as a matter of political plagiarism.

In both cases, Romney seeks to put Obama in the odd position of defending himself on his unquestioned accomplishments, doing so at a very early point in the general election campaign. It’s an argument the Republican candidate and his surrogates only have to wage, not necessarily win, in order to dilute somewhat the impact of Obama rightfully highlighting the most praiseworthy features of his record.

(Speaking of narcissism, we’re not sure what to make of lefty knucklehead Arianna Huffington’s attack on Obama’s Osama ad, except to note that the objection is raised by the person whose political savvy and strategic brilliance helped lead to the landslide election of Senator Michael Huffington).

As a practical matter, it’s hard to imagine Romney’s arguments moving the numbers much, especially among women, Latinos or younger voters, the three groups where he lags far behind Obama, not least because of some of the hard right-wing stances he took in the GOP primary season (which he now is trying to expurgate).

And despite the so-called “tie” between the two in national popularity polls, Romney still faces a very narrow Electoral College pathway in his bid to oust the incumbent, as the WashPost reported this week:

A detailed analysis of Romney’s various paths to the 270 electoral votes he would need to claim the presidency suggests he has a ceiling of somewhere right around 290 electoral votes. While Romney’s team would absolutely take a 290-electoral-vote victory, that means he has only 20 electoral votes to play with — a paper-thin margin for error.

Bottom line: One of the states on Romney’s knife edge is Michigan, where he’d like to at least erase the memory of his call to flush the American auto industry  down the toilet. In Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado — swing states with strong links to the military — he’d like to weaken Obama’s reputation as the guy who took out bin Laden.

Don’t be surprised if, along with criticizing Obama’s popularity as a matter of “celebrity,” the Armies of Romney attack Obama’s jump shot (“whatsamatta, he can’t dunk?”), his smile (just a cheesy grin that’s hiding something) and Michelle (why isn’t she home with those girls?). Anything that looks like a strength, Romney (using the Rovian playbook) will try to tear apart.

Your Calbuzz prediction? The play won’t work because Romney’s got Bush’s brain stuck in the wrong end of his anatomy.

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There are 7 comments for this post

  1. avatar nfwriter says:

    It’s worth remembering that this subversive Rove exposed the identity of a clandestine CIA operative over the course of getting his hero, George Bush, reelected. His dirty political tricks made the nastiness of Nixons’ plumbers look like sunday school. He refused to testify in congress as to his role in railroading the US into a wrong-headed and disastrous war in Iraq and then he parlayed a deal to avoid prosecution before Bush left office.

    Karl Rove has no place in todays’ political discourse. His rightful place is in federal prison. The only reason he still has a voice at all is because of the corrupting influence of Koch brothers millions. Karl Rove is a contemptuous lout. The back of my hand to him.

  2. avatar Chris Reed says:

    I agree with 98 percent of this and think W was a terrible prez. As a libertarian, I was particularly disgusted with Rove’s use of nearly a dozen state initiatives blocking gay marriage as a way to drive up the social conservative turnout in 2004.

    But, jeez, guys, the auto bailout is not exactly drenched in glory.


    If a private company put out a stock prospectus as dishonest as Obama’s claim that GM is turning a profit and had repaid its loans, the SEC and the Justice Department would string up that company’s CEO.

    Yet you are now a proxy to this dishonest depiction. I don’t get it.

  3. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    This guilt by association effort of tying Romney and Rove together is apparently written to hurt Romney with the Bush hating Mods; however, it is rather premature. I’d say wait till October to re-issue this column. It’ll be valid then.

    As to the Obama claim that Romney would not likely have issued the Osama Bin Laden kill order, that was a clear Demo blunder. Only Lefty loyalists would believe that nonsense coming from Obama.

    Oh my! And we are faced with six more months of Romney hating and Obama licking CalBuzz crap. I am looking forward to the post-election return to “politics is fun again” goodies that make most of your readers smile again.

  4. avatar nfwriter says:

    It wasn’t necessary to ‘create’ the Romney/Rove link. Rove is on board, money from billionaires (who detest him also) in hand. Romney isn’t his favorite but Romney really isn’t anyone’s favorite, now is he?

    Campaign days excite little roly poly Rove like chicken on the floor excites a health inspector, like a DUI excites a traffic cop. His wife has left him, He’s lonely. He has time on his hands. And candidate notwithstanding, he is warming to the fight. He’ll do anything to insure a GOP win. He’s an embarrassment to his party and to the whole United States.

  5. avatar JohnF says:

    Yes Rove should be in a Federal Prison for his part in Valerie Plame case. Only the rather shocking reticence of Patrick Fitzgerald to pursue the case against Rove. There is Rove’s grand jury testimony that could of done him in (called back four times as I remember to explain his inconsistencies), if it was anybody else it would of been perjury after the 2nd session. The Democrats need to do two things at all times. Attack the falsehoods as Rovian Lies, and to try to stop the “false equivalency” journalistic practices, espoused by most of the DC Political Press. Some people have brains capable of making judgements of degrees of truthfuliness (thanks to Stephan Colbert).

  6. avatar C.J. says:

    it’s “truthiness” JohnF … great Colbert invention

    • avatar JohnF says:

      C.J. Thank you for the correction. It is appreciated. And yes it is a great Colbert invention.

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