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Karl Rove Is Just in Hiding

Ready for his next smear job on US Democrats.

By Steve Burgess 14 Aug 2007 |

Steve Burgess is a regular contributor to The Tyee.

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Prez with beloved 'Turd Blossom'

A virus would be harmless if it couldn't replicate. The H5N1 bird flu germ could spend all day being as nasty as it pleased and yet not a single pigeon would develop the sniffles were it not for that unfortunate ability to multiply and spread. Which is why knowledgeable opponents of George W. Bush have generally reserved their greatest enmity not for the president himself, but for his primary means of viral transmission. Karl Rove, the former Bush campaign manager who has just resigned his position as deputy chief of staff and senior White House advisor, was always Dubya's contagion. Many will celebrate his departure from the scene. They celebrate too soon.

As is customary in such cases Rove cited family reasons for his departure. It's touching to consider Rove in his new role as family man. Perhaps he will now encourage his son Andrew to study harder in college, using a vicious television smear campaign. Surely the old habits will be hard to break.

But then, there is no reason to believe he has any intention of changing. Rove's value to Bush/Cheney was never as a White House advisor anyway, and so his resignation this week means little. Rove is a warrior. Bush has no more wars left to fight -- at least not the electoral kind. Karl Rove is now free to focus his dark arts on whichever candidate emerges as the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee. And the likely winner, Hillary Clinton, is what military types refer to as a target-rich environment.

Bush's brain, ready for transplant

Rove's reputation as an electoral Voldemort has slipped in the last year. Republican losses in the 2006 midterm elections destroyed his frightening aura of invincibility. Yet even Rove could not be expected to turn a political tide in full flood, and a disgusted American public would not be denied their chance to vote on Iraq. But the 2008 Republican presidential candidate will not be tied directly to the Bush/Cheney invasion fiasco. The Republicans will have the chance to start fresh. Should he choose to run the show, the man George W. Bush liked to call "Turd Blossom" will be free to engage in his usual wacky shenanigans.

There is no guarantee that Rove will run the 2008 Republican campaign. It may not even be likely -- the eventual nominee will have his own manager. Still, Rove will likely be in the mix somewhere. At the very least his example will guide the party's efforts.

Rove was often described as "Bush's brain." That's the sort of item you might want to leave off a resume, all things considered. More flattering to say that Rove was Candidate Bush's political majordomo, a strategist who mastered the art of negative definition. Look upon his masterpiece and tremble: the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a hired gang of character assassins who took to the airwaves in 2004 to tell unverifiable stories about Senator John Kerry's medal-winning military career. Three years later the audacity is still breathtaking. On behalf of a president and vice president who pulled every string to avoid service in Vietnam, a gang of marginal cranks acquired mysterious funding to air slick TV ads defaming the record of John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam vet. And moreover, it worked. It's true that Kerry was a bad campaigner. Mostly though, he lacked the pure amoral genius of his enemies.

Look out Clinton, Obama

There will be much to despise about the Bush legacy. Rove's election tactics must be the most troubling of all, because they have the most implications for the future. Bad as Bush's second term has been, people sometimes forget that his first term was arguably the worst ever. After four years of epic ineptitude Bush was safely reelected in 2004 with none of the judicial prestidigitation required in 2000. That was largely the work of Osama Bin Laden and Karl Rove.

Despite the disaster that has followed from two terms of a Republican White House there is no reason to believe the American voter has suddenly become wise and judicious. Nasty and unscrupulous worked last time. The bucket of feces that smeared the Democrats in 2004 stands ready. Same bucket, new feces -- there will be plenty of options for attacking Senator Clinton, a polarizing figure in American politics.

In the unlikely event that the Democrats turn to Barack Obama there is no telling how low the Republicans will stoop.

Don't put anything past them. They are still the party of Karl Rove.

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