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Understanding Mayberry Machiavellis

Neocons in the Republican Party

News Neoconservatism Recommended Links Recommended Papers Machiavellism John Dilulio letter
The ability and willingness to employ savage methods Deception as an art form Culture War Neocons Credibility Scam Neocon foreign policy is a disaster for the USA
Noble Lie Leo Strauss and the Neocons False Flag Operations The use of wedge issues as the tool to obtain and hold power. Hillary "Warmonger" Clinton Jeb Bush
A grand old cult The History of Media-Military-Industrial Complex Concept Neo-theocratic Movements Lysenkoism American Exceptionalism
Guardian paper Washington Post paper by Mike Allen LA Times Paper by Neal Gabler Etc
"Conservatives, from the days of Machiavelli to such twentieth-century figures as Germany's Carl Schmitt, have, by contrast, viewed politics as an extension of war, complete with no-holds-barred treatment of the enemy, iron-clad discipline in the ranks, cries of treason against those who do not support the effort with full-throated vigor, and total control over any spoils won.

From a conservative point of view, separation of powers is divisive, tolerance a luxury, fairness another word for weakness, and cooperation unnecessary.

If conservatives will not use government to tame Hobbes' state of nature, they will use it to strengthen Hobbes' state of nature. Victory is the only thing that matters, and any tactic more likely to produce victory is justified.

Alan Wolfe


Introduction

It looks more and more that neocons such as Dick Cheney have neither the understanding not desire to learn of how to make things better. They only know how to destroy and take apart all that is good and functioning (wrecking crew). After adoption of Bolsheviks tactics of working with press and demonizing enemies, they can win elections more or less consistently. But they are unable to govern as they are too preoccupied with dividing spoils of victory among friends and corporate sponsors. As Alan Wolfe observed in his important paper Why Conservatives Can't Govern (Washington Monthly July 2006)

If government is necessary, bad government, at least for conservatives, is inevitable, and conservatives have been exceptionally good at showing just how bad it can be. Hence the truth revealed by the Bush years: Bad government--indeed, bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and unfair government -- is the only kind of conservative government there is. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.

At the same time politically they adopted very efficient and completely unscrupulous policy that allows them to dupe large part of middle class and even blue collar workers. It includes several important elements

In an often cited quote Frank (What's the Matter with Kansas) sums up the level of deception involved in the following way:

The real joke is a person, who is now considered to be centrist in the USA in 2012, was considered radical rightwing nut around 30 plus years ago.

And Busheviks are really the second generation Bolsheviks in their political strategy. As such they are really sophisticated and extremely dangerous political opponent without any positive program. A political gang.

First let's put this term into historical perspective. In him Amazon review to Prince Wayne A. Smith wrote:

There are two good reasons to read Machiavelli's classic, "The Prince."

First, so you'll know what everyone is referring to when you come across the adjective "machiavellian" in news stories or other media. This adjective has become so commonplace (and overused) it is almost a cliche. Also, most who use it have never read this letter from Machiavelli, a Rennaisance courtier to his Prince (written from prison), but they insist on peppering writings with this noun turned adjective so much that as a matter of clearly understanding what is meant by the term, famiality with this brief treatise is helpful.

Second, this book does describe most (not all) power situations very well. From politics to corporations to most settings where advancement, influence and control exist, Machiavelli's observations and rules apply.

You will also discover that Machiavelli was not as evil as he is understood to be in popular thought. What he was doing was describing the rules of the game that have existed and always will exist for many situations involving selfish humans in competition. Machiavelli's rules are neither good nor bad in themselves -- they describe a process. What is good or bad is how those who master Machiavelli's rules use their power and position, in a society that tempers actions according to law and basic Judeo-Christian principals. When those principals do not exist (as in Nazi Germany, the Middle Ages or under Communism, or by those who refuse to live by these constraints), Machiavelli's rules take on their demonic and evil cloak; usually because they serve demonic and evil ends. In societies where positive constraints exist, for example the U.S. political system, Machiavellian behavior can produce excellent results.

A good example involves Abraham Lincoln, whose ambition led him to use every legitimate trick and strategy to master (and remove) political opponents. His mastery of Machiavellian behavior constrained by the US political system allowed him to save the Union and end slavery.

To fully appreciate the modern lessons that can be taken from this writing, one must translate Medieval sensibilites to their contemporary counterparts. The casual way in which Machiavelli discusses the need to kill opponents was necessary to those who wished to be princes 500 years ago. Today, of course, "killing" is translated as rendering less powerful, or taking an opponent out of the game.

What does one get from this book? It is a roadmap with insights and lessons about how to

  1. get ahead of others to attain power; and
  2. maintain and expand one's power in the face of others who would usurp one who is in a desirable position.

This book is about ruthlessness and putting the attainment and preservation of power ahead of any other consideration. Plenty of maxims that are also tossed about frequently in media are to be found in Machiavelli's book: "the end justifies the means," "it is better to be feared than loved," "if you fight the prince, kill the prince" to name a few.

It is essential reading to anyone who would be in a competitive environment and hope to advance, if for no other reason than many of one's competitors operate by Machiavelli's dictums (which arise out of human instinct and selfishness). One does not have to operate according to Machaivelli's code -- many examples of alturism and "pluck and luck" exist to defeat any claim that Machiavelli's road map is essential for success. However, human nature and human history deliver far more examples of ruthless self-interest (Machiavellianism) behind success in power situations.

Is Machiavellianism bad? Not in and of itself. Remember, one must translate the Middle Age ethos to current practices -- there usually isn't blood spilled as a result of today's Machiavellian duels, just power and position. Most political and business leaders are at least partly Machiavellian. The trick is using one's power to good ends. Thus, even though Lincoln and all of our presidents were Machiavellian in their climb to the White House, some of them did darn good work there. The same is true for business leaders. Jack Welch (GE), Bill Gates (Microsoft), anyone who advances past the first few rungs of the corporate ladder or dominates markets at the expense of competitors is using Machiavelli's dictums. The trick of a just and good society is to set the bounds by which power can be attained and exercised so that good and benefits will flow from those who are able to "claw their way to the top."

To summarize, read this book if you want to

  1. truly understand when the adjective "Machiavelli" is used to describe people and
  2. understand the rules by which most people navigate their way to power.

"The Reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis" is the nickname of rule of ruthless incompetents, putting in high positions people with ideologically correct views, but who has zero or near zero abilities to perform ("subzeros"). It is very close replica of the tactics used by Bolsheviks in Russia. Along with fake promises the story is about successful usage of militarism and jingoism as a unifying force for the Republican Party which otherwise is a rag tag collection of groups that do not have much in common.

False flag Operations

In involves cynical manipulation of the public to support policies far different from the issues that are advanced openly; One of a typical tricks is false flag operations. For example distributing crude, vicious flyers directly against Rove client. According to one popular story (attributed to Rove himself), flyers were thrown at night with both hands from the windows of a car while he was steering with his knees. They leveled ridiculous, offensive accusations against Rove's client.

This was blamed on the opposition, and Rove's client (Harold See) won a race that only weeks before wasn't even close. You can see a brief account of it here (skip ahead to 1996). Joshua Green of The Atlantic did a comprehensive story on Rove and his electioneering tactics in 2004, and if I am right and this is the model Navalny is using, Russia watchers should not get complacent about the long periods of relative inactivity between protest events. The Rovian model goes into overdrive in the last two weeks of a campaign, and the get-out-the-vote effort is labeled the "72-hour Task Force". As the name implies, the effort reaches a crescendo in the final three days of the campaign, when polling has stopped and likely last indicated a far different picture. It is essentially a blitzkrieg attack, often based on a fabricated wedge issue or game-changing incident, designed to steer the undecided and change the minds of the uncommitted when they have no time left to question the allegations and the target has no time left to refute them.

The use of wedge issues as the tool to obtain and hold power.

Karl Rove perfected the use of wedge issues as the tool to obtain and hold power. For example Neal Gabler[Gabler2004] suggested "Division, then, is not a side effect of policy; in Rovism, it is the purpose of policy". Here is another interesting quote that also falls along those lines of thinking:

Stories of Rove's ruthlessness are legion. Consider the South Carolina 2000 Presidential primary. The South Carolina Presidential primary in 2000 is a case in point. John McCain threatened to defeat George Bush, as he had in New Hampshire. Suddenly, as Ron Suskind describes it, "Bush loyalists began distributing parking-lot handouts and making telephone 'push polls' and fomenting whisper campaigns that McCain had fathered a black baby by a prostitute, his wife was a drug addict, and that he had become unstable due to his years in a Vietnamese prison camp.

The McCains had adopted a baby from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh. "Bridget, now eleven years old, waved along with the rest of the McCain brood from stages across the state, a dark-skinned child inadvertently providing a photo op for slander." McCain lost.

This looks like a variant of a typical cults strategy. The most important is that both are playing the distinction and appeal to the instincts that might be not the best part of human's psyche. Karl Rove despise and disregard for truth is self-evident and that makes similarities even stronger. Stubborn insistence that it doesn't have to compromise with facts if they don't agree with the theory was the hallmark of Bolshevism as a political party. In a way both deal with inconvenient facts by creating a new reality. If facts does not correspond the desirable line of policy, too bad for the facts :-) Here we rely on the characterization of Neal Gabler

"When neither dissent nor facts are recognized as constraining forces, one is infallible, which is the sum and foundation of Rovism. Cleverly invoking the power of faith to protect itself from accusations of stubbornness and insularity, this administration entertains no doubt, no adjustment, no negotiation, no competing point of view. As such, it eschews the essence of the American political system: flexibility and compromise.

Power grab as an ultimate goal without any consideration of benefits to the country or the world

The second issue is "power grab". Any cult is definitely antidemocratic and thus can be characterized by high level of concentration of power at the top. Similar situation seems to exist in Busheviks camp. John DiIulio, former Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, wrote "Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political advisor post near the Oval Office."

After Republicans won the midterm elections, another senior White House official told Ron Suskind of Esquire:

"Karl just went from prime minister to king. Amazing . . . and a little scary. Now no one will speak candidly about him or take him on or contradict him. Pure power, no real accountability."

Former Bush Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill characterized Bushevism as "putting politics before sound policy judgments".

Appeal to basic instincts

Echoing a criticism leveled by former Bush aide John J. DiIulio Jr., who coined the term "Mayberry Machiavellis", O'Neill said that appeal to "basic instincts" and to images and slogans instead of substance is another important similarity.

Cult style methods

As Neal Gabler observed in Bushevism, toughness is the only virtue (Karl Rove America's Mullah, Los Angeles Times:

The mere appearance of change is intolerable, which is why Bush apparently can't admit ever making a mistake. As Machiavelli put it, the prince must show that "his judgments are irrevocable."

... ... ...

Boiled down, Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness - ironically the force the administration says it is fighting. It imposes rather than proposes.

Adherence to "big lie" theory

The quote "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself. " is attributed to Goebbels, but is perfectly applicable to Busheviks practices. One classic, now textbook example was promotion of the idea the Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. It cost the USA several hundred billion dollars, several thousand of US solders and hundred thousand of Iraqi citizen to find out that this was just a lie.

Another but more complex web of lies is connected with 9/11. In a way, the whole 9/11 event has several alarming analogies with Reichstag fire. And one of them is complete lack of desire of both government, and Congress to dig out the truth (which also make it suspiciously similar to JFK assassination).

The issues involved are complex and controversial for for a person who took a university course in physics it is very difficult to explain hightly symmetrical, orderly (into own footprint) and very fast collapse of WTC 7 building (also at Geraldo Rivera changes mind on AE911Truth). The first impression from watching any video of collapse of WTC 7 is that collapse occurred symmetrically, as if all columns were artificially removed. WTC 7 had not been hit by a plane, so it was apparently the first steel-framed high-rise building in the which collapsed because of fire alone. Especially surprising was the fact that it fall neatly into the building footprint.

After 12 years since the event, like was the case with JFK assassination, the complex interplay of political forces which could benefit from the event, the role of particular figures in Bush II administration, especially Cheney, gradually started to come to surface.


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Old News ;-)

'There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.

Irving Kristol

[Jun 26, 2017] Intelligence agency officials play big politics

Another Mayberry Machiavelli from intelligence community
Notable quotes:
"... "In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of (President) Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election - plain and simple," Johnson said." ..."
"... Modern-day political figures seem more and more like some of the characters on "WKRP In Cincinnati"; people who, as the receptionist explained "would otherwise not be able to get jobs" ..."
Jun 26, 2017 | marknesop.wordpress.com
Northern Star , June 21, 2017 at 1:16 pm
Appears to be a moron:
"Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson from the Obama administration told the House Intelligence committee that Moscow's high-tech intrusion did not change ballots, the final count or the reporting of election results.

Johnson described the steps he took once he learned of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, his fears about an attack on the election itself and his rationale for designating U.S. election systems, including polling places and voter registration databases, as critical infrastructure in early January, two weeks before Donald Trump's inauguration.

"In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of (President) Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election - plain and simple," Johnson said."

https://www.yahoo.com/news/ex-obama-homeland-security-chief-face-intelligence-panel-074831923–politics.html

Nope !! .IS a moron:

"In January 2011, Johnson provoked controversy when, according to a Department of Defense news story, he asserted in a speech at the Pentagon that deceased civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., would have supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite King's outspoken opposition to American interventionism during his lifetime.[28] Johnson argued that American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq were playing the role of the Good Samaritan, consistent with King's beliefs, and that they were fighting to establish the peace for which King hoped.[29][30] Jeremy Scahill of Salon.com called Johnson's remarks "one of the most despicable attempts at revisionist use of Martin Luther King Jr. I've ever seen," while Justin Elliott (also of Salon.com) argued that based on Dr. King's opposition to the Vietnam War, he would likely have opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the covert wars in Pakistan and Yemen."

yalensis , June 21, 2017 at 3:17 pm
"Johnson provoked controversy when, according to a Department of Defense news story, he asserted in a speech at the Pentagon that deceased civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., would have supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "

He lies! My what-if machine (what I have in my basement) tells me that Dr. King would have opposed, in the most militant manner possible, the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars!

Jen , June 21, 2017 at 9:25 pm
You didn't have to consult the alternative-worlds TARDIS machine database to find out that Dr King would have opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: here's the speech he made opposing the war in Vietnam which may have made him a target for assassination.

http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_beyond_vietnam/

yalensis , June 22, 2017 at 5:33 pm
I rest my case!

https://ads.pubmatic.com/AdServer/js/showad.js#PIX&kdntuid=1&p=156204

marknesop , June 21, 2017 at 7:40 pm
"In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of (President) Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election - plain and simple," Johnson said."

He's half-right – the idea certainly is simple. Just like him.

Modern-day political figures seem more and more like some of the characters on "WKRP In Cincinnati"; people who, as the receptionist explained "would otherwise not be able to get jobs".

Vladimir Ryzhkov, Doomsday's Outrider: I Wanted a NATO Intervention for Christmas

January 14, 2012 | The Kremlin Stooge
marknesop:
This interesting story continues to develop. I doubt it will be followed up to its conclusion; certainly not in the western press, where it will probably be encouraged to die away before it begins to experience diminishing returns. But I would not be a bit surprised to find the Navalny campaign, probably with the involvement of its western backers, behind it.

The popular analysis has been to attribute Navalny's phenomenal growth in stature in Russian politics (although he's still a very small fish in a very big pond, bear in mind that only a year ago he was a virtual nobody blogger) to the teachings of Gene Sharp and the good regime change folks at OTPOR. However, I'm beginning to see more and more commonalities with strategies of western political strategists like Karl Rove and Lee Staples.

Rove was quite well-known in recent years for a tactic strikingly similar to the photoshopped photo incident, in which he distributed crude, vicious flyers (according to one popular story attributed to Rove himself, thrown at night with both hands from the windows of a car while he was steering with his knees) that leveled ridiculous, offensive accusations against Rove's client.

This was blamed on the opposition, and Rove's client (Harold See) won a race that only weeks before wasn't even close. You can see a brief account of it here (skip ahead to 1996). Joshua Green of The Atlantic did a comprehensive story on Rove and his electioneering tactics in 2004, and if I am right and this is the model Navalny is using, Russia watchers should not get complacent about the long periods of relative inactivity between protest events.

The Rovian model goes into overdrive in the last two weeks of a campaign, and the get-out-the-vote effort is labeled the "72-hour Task Force". As the name implies, the effort reaches a crescendo in the final three days of the campaign, when polling has stopped and likely last indicated a far different picture. It is essentially a blitzkrieg attack, often based on a fabricated wedge issue or game-changing incident, designed to steer the undecided and change the minds of the uncommitted when they have no time left to question the allegations and the target has no time left to refute them.

Lee Staples is the author of "Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing". A review I read of of this book suggested, "Every 'Change Agent' should read this book". While the author seems sincere in his offering of empowerment for the common man to change the circumstances of his life, the tactic has been adopted to coalesce around a faked incident or issue and appeal to people's emotions when they are least capable of cold reason and analysis.

kievite
Mark,

I'm beginning to see more and more commonalities with strategies of western political strategists like Karl Rove and Lee Staples.

I think this is one of the most important insights of this thread and it probably deserves a blog post of its own. False flag operations a la Rove are very effective. They also preempt revelation of dirty deals by Navalny (see his correspondence with Belkovsky) immunizing from such revelations before they can affect the client.

But the issue is much wider. It really looks like an attempt to implement "Rovian model" (for brevity let's call it "Rovism" ;-) .

I would like to point out that along with false flag operations another favorite Rovism trick is using wedge issue as the tool to obtain and hold power. And IMHO in Navalny "Let's stop feed Caucasus for free" slogan we can see an implementation of this trick. In Rovism the division is not an externality of particular policy; it is the purpose of the policy.

As in any cult an important part of the message is the appeal to the "basic instincts" that might be not the best part of human's psyche. Here slogan "Let's stop feed Caucasus for free" fits the bill.

Here is another interesting quote that demonstrates this trick in action:

Stories of Rove's ruthlessness are legion. Consider the South Carolina 2000 Presidential primary. The South Carolina Presidential primary in 2000 is a case in point. John McCain threatened to defeat George Bush, as he had in New Hampshire. Suddenly, as Ron Suskind describes it, "Bush loyalists began distributing parking-lot handouts and making telephone push polls"; and fomenting whisper campaigns that McCain had fathered a black baby by a prostitute, his wife was a drug addict, and that he had become unstable due to his years in a Vietnamese prison camp.

The McCains had adopted a baby from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh. "Bridget, now eleven years old, waved along with the rest of the McCain brood from stages across the state, a dark-skinned child inadvertently providing a photo op for slander." McCain lost.

Karl Rove's despise and disregard for truth is self-evident and that makes similarities with a theocratic cult even stronger. Stubborn insistence that he "…doesn't have to compromise with facts" if they don't agree with the theory was the hallmark of Bolshevism as a political party. In way both deal with inconvenient facts by creating a new reality. If facts does not correspond the desirable line of policy, too bad for the facts.

Here is very apt characterization of the essence of "Rovism" as a political strategy by Neal Gabler

they are reconfiguring the system in extra-constitutional, theocratic terms.

Theocratic nature of Rovism means that facts are not recognized as constraining forces. That also means that Navalny and friends should display "theocratic zealot determination": such a person entertains no doubt, rejects any adjustment to their demands and demands an unconditional surrender as a precondition of any talks. "Duma elections were rigged" and United Russia is a "Party of scoundrels and thieves" are statements of faith and if you do not accept it you simply no longer belong to the sect.

Another consequences of theocratic nature of Rovism is that it concentrates all the efforts on power grab via hijacking of elections disregarding any moral or ethical constrains in means of achieving this goal. By generating visceral hatred toward the enemy dehumanization of the opponent is achieved with 100% reliability. This way fearless leader absolves the foot solders of any restrains so that they can commit any crimes as long as their actions are helping to grab the power for the cult.

This obsessive preoccupation of power grab as end in itself is why John DiIulio, former Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives called Rove & friends "Mayberry Machiavellis". He wrote about Karl Rove:

… no one will speak candidly about him or take him on or contradict him. Pure power, no real accountability.


This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis - staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible. These folks have their predecessors in previous administrations (left and right, Democrat and Republican), but, in the Bush administration, they were particularly unfettered.
Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/dilulio#ixzz1jTVEYzSy

Similarly former Bush Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill characterized Rove strategy as "putting politics before sound policy judgments".. They care more about partisan victories than about governing well and have little of not concerns about integrity and prosperity of Russia. The chief concern is partisan success, regardless of the good of the country or the world. In deep sense of the word they (like Cheney-Bush administration was) are jihadis ,

The image of a "supreme religious leader", touch guy, fearless fighter with corruption is also important and it looks like this is the image Navalny tries to project despite being in my opinion Ostap Bender style of personality. This image of "fearless leader" is closely related to cult followers mindset in which toughness of the leader and loyalty are key virtue that ensure the sect survival in hostile world ( http://articles.latimes.com/2004/oct/24/opinion/op-gabler24/2 ) :

The mere appearance of change [of opinion] is intolerable, which is why Bush apparently can't admit ever making a mistake. As Machiavelli put it, the prince must show that "his judgments are irrevocable."
… … …
Boiled down, Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness".

The view on Navalny and his followers as neo-liberal jihadis is really terrifying, and should give everyone a pause.

[Jan 15, 2012] Jon Huntsman "Manchurian Candidate" Video Classic Karl Rove ...

On Wednesday, an anonymous account was created on YouTube and a few brief minutes later a video using this anonymous person's account was uploaded depicting Jon Huntsman as a "Manchurian Candidate" because he was Obama's U.S. Ambassador to China, speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and has an adopted Chinese daughter.

The person(s) behind the video intended to make it appear that the campaign of Ron Paul was behind the negative attack ad. A link to the video was almost immediately sent to Huntsman's campaign where the first viewer of the video was associated with Huntsman's campaign website. Not surprisingly, the Huntsman campaign pointed fingers at Ron Paul's campaign and the media gleefully chimed in, blaming it on the candidate by implication because one of his supporters supposedly created it.

Only a fool would truly believe that a Ron Paul supporter actually created that video. What we know is that polls show that only Paul is in a position to compete against front-runner Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, where an open primary allows voters of all stripes to participate in Tuesday's election. Huntsman, who has devoted all of his efforts in New Hampshire, can't break 10% in Granite State polls, while Ron Paul has surged to 20% or better in some polls, although well behind Romney. Huntsman and Romney are fellow Mormons who have no love lost for one another. The video most likely was part of dirty tricks operation by the Romney campaign to kill two birds with one stone. The subject matter of the ad clearly is aimed at stirring up xenophobic fears towards Huntsman at the same time making those who back Ron Paul's campaign appear to be simple-minded racists. The diabolical nature of it is a classical Karl Rove-type negative campaign operation against political opponents.

Throughout his career as an operative within the Republican Party, Rove has been at the center of one dirty trick after another. Rove, who was raised in Nevada, took his first role running a U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois in 1970 after dropping out of the University of Utah. During the campaign, Rove used a false identity to enter the campaign headquarters of a state treasurer candidate, Alan Dixon (D), where he stole letterhead bearing the candidate's name. He then printed up fake campaign rally fliers promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing", and distributed them at rock concerts and homeless shelters, in order to successfully disrupt Dixon's campaign rally. The college drop out became a key figure in the dirty tricks operation of Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign and became involved in a highly disputed election to head up the national College Republicans organization. Rove manipulated the credentialing of delegates to the convention to claim victory over his opponent. The dispute was taken to the RNC Chairman, George H.W. Bush, who declared Rove the winner. When the losing candidate wrote to Bush inquiring how he could have concluded Rove won the election fairly, Bush sent the young man the "angriest letter" he had ever received in his life.

After serving as chairman of the College Republicans, Rove settled down in Texas where he worked for campaign organizations associated with the Bushes and their allies. Rove helped Democrat-turned-Republican Phil Gramm defeat Ron Paul for a U.S. Senate seat in 1984. When he worked on the campaign of former Texas Gov. Bill Clements, he claimed his offices had been bugged by a political opponent, an allegation dismissed by the FBI and police after an investigation was conducted. Critics believed Rove had made the story up and planted an inoperable bug in his own offices to cast suspicion on Clements' political opponent a short time before the election. A common Rove tactic is to create whispering campaigns about political opponents, including accusations they are gay, a tactic employed against Texas Gov. Ann Richards when George W. Bush ran against her. Rove used push poll questions asking voters their impression of Richards if they knew her staff was dominated by lesbians. Rove's step-father, incidentally, later lived an openly gay life with a same-sex partner after divorcing his mother, who committed suicide. George H.W. Bush would fire him from his 1992 re-election campaign after he got caught leaking negative information about a close Bush campaign ally to columnist Robert Novak.

Rove's dirty tricks operation reared its ugly head again when he ran George W. Bush's race for president in 2000 during the Republican primaries. Suggestions that McCain was not a natural born citizen because he was born in Panama while his father was serving in the Navy emerged. Rumors were circulated via fliers during the South Carolina primary that McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock, that he was gay and that his wife was a drug addict. McCain was accused of being guilty of treason because of things he told the Vietnames while being tortured in a POW camp in Vietnam for five years. Other rumors were spread that McCain was mentally unstable and had actually gone insane while a POW in Vietnam.

As a Fox News analyst today, Rove's attacks against Ron Paul have been especially sharp and always focus on marginalizing him and his supporters as much as possible. Rove claims not to be working on behalf of any of the candidates, but his public statements leave no doubt that Romney is the candidate that he believes should be nominated by the Republicans in 2012. Fox News commentators all ape the negative attacks Rove fuels during his appearances on the cable news network. Fox News, not surpisingly, did all it could to tarnish Paul over the Huntsman video despite absolutely no evidence that anyone associated with his campaign had anything to do with its production. Yes, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that only the mind of someone like Karl Rove would have created the controversial Huntsman video. Watch as Fox News blames it on Paul's people without any substantiation. I can barely stand to watch Fox News any more because of the way it has permitted a low life like Rove to manipulate the political discussions in this country.

[Jan 15, 2012] Karl Rove's Last-Minute Robocalling Tactic to Steal the Election by Bernard Weiner

Pretty nasty false flag operation
November 6, 2006 | The Smirking Chimp

We all waited for Karl Rove's "October Surprise," but it turns out he saved it for the final 72 hours before Election Day. It's been termed "robocalling," and Democratic and swing voters urgently need to hear about it in these last moments before voting.

In various key states and districts, Republicans have initiated this dirty "robocalling" trick. Here, based on preliminary reporting coming in -- and Josh Marshall's website (www.talkingpointsmemo.com) is right on it -- is how it works:

On an automatic-redial system, registered Democrats are called again and again and again and again, at any time during the day or night, to hear what appears to be a message from the Democratic Party in support of the local Democratic Senate or House candidate. The object is to harass and annoy the hell out of these voters, to the point that they'll take out their anger on the Democratic candidate by not voting for him or her, or maybe deciding not to vote in the election at all.

In other words, yet another version of voter suppression in tight races, reminiscent of what Republican operatives (with ties to the White House) were convincted of in New Hampshire last year. In that case, involving the 2002 Senate election, the Republicans automatic-redialed the Democratic Party headquarters' phone lines in the final days before the election so that the Dems' get-out-the-vote campaign was totally jammed and rendered useless. The GOP candidate won the election. (Check out the story at here. )

The point here is that these 2006 "robocalling" attacks aimed at Democrats are happening at the last minute, and many Democrats may believe them to be real and get thoroughly pissed off at the Democratic candidates and decide to not vote for them or to stay home and not vote at all.

Our job today, the last day before most voters will go to the polls, is to get the word out across the country, alerting Democrats about this desperation GOP tactic -- and traditional Republicans and swing voters as well, who, if they found out about this despicable ploy, might well be appalled at what's being done to manipulate the vote. Let's shine the light of truth on these rats.

Bob Fertik at Democrats.com recommends the following: "It's too late for legal action or even newspaper stories. If you receive one of these calls, write down the time and candidate and call every radio and TV show you can and urge everyone listening to vote against the disgusting Republican dirty tricksters. And [[ write an email and ]] forward this email to everyone you know so they aren't fooled by Karl Rove's dirty trick."

The Republicans aver that they're doing nothing "illegal" by making their last-minute phone calls to voters, but it would be a tragedy for our democratic republic if their dastardly tactic worked, only to indict and convict these guys a year from now for trying to subvert the electoral process.

Apparently, there are variations of last-minute push-phoning in use as well. In the tight Tennessee Senate race between Repubican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford Jr., calls are being received by African-American voters, among others, saying that if they voted for Ford in the primary, they don't need to vote again in tomorrow's general election.

The lesson: Stay alert, get the word out, get Democratic voters to the polls tomorrow in huge, landslide numbers. We can't let Rove & his minions steal yet another election. #

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in Washington and California, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers

[Jul 13, 2011] Barney Frank On Whether There Is A Chance The US Will Be Put Into Default- "Yes"

Asked when there is a chance the US will be put into default: "Yes. I take the freshmen republicans and people like Michelle Bachmann at their word. I don't think they're kidding. I think they fundamentally misread this situation as Bernanke, a Bush appointee after all, made clear today. I think there are people that frankly have an unreal view of the world. They believe that this is somehow a fake and that you can push a button and make a lot of these debts go away. I believe there are a substantial number of Republicans who are opposed to a huge debt and a further group of Republicans who understand why it's important to raise the debt limit, but are afraid of losing a primary to someone."

[Mar 30, 2011] Academic Intimidation

Quote from "From "Why Conservatives Can't Govern" is a perfect description of "Busheviks" or Mayberry Machiavelli. See also Scholar as Citizen William Cronon blog...
NYTimes.com

Opir Music:

"Conservatives, from the days of Machiavelli to such twentieth-century figures as Germany's Carl Schmitt, have, by contrast, viewed politics as an extension of war, complete with no-holds-barred treatment of the enemy, iron-clad discipline in the ranks, cries of treason against those who do not support the effort with full-throated vigor, and total control over any spoils won.

From a conservative point of view, separation of powers is divisive, tolerance a luxury, fairness another word for weakness, and cooperation unnecessary.

If conservatives will not use government to tame Hobbes' state of nature, they will use it to strengthen Hobbes' state of nature. Victory is the only thing that matters, and any tactic more likely to produce victory is justified.

"From "Why Conservatives Can't Govern": http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0607.wolfe.html

nyalawest wi

Actually, Mr. Krugman, the FOIA request came before Bill's blog post (that you mentioned above) and after he put a study guide onto his new Scholar as Citizen blog: http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/.

That study guide--and it was a real study guide, mind you!-- was titled "Who's Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn't Start Here)."Would be worth your time to check that out.

The Republicans are clearly angry that their overt ties to ALEC are now being analyzed by thoughtful, well-educated people. :)

Bailey Walsh

Point of clarification: the Open Records Request was filed by a member of the Republican Party of Wisconsin 3/17, after Cronon's blog post of 3/15 on ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), but before his NYT op-ed ran on 3/22.

This timing is important to understand. Among other motivations, they are attempting to inhibit any further investigation of ALEC by intimidating one of the most respected historians in America.

Cronon was simply asking legitimate questions about the role this little known national organization is playing in the policy making in Wisconsin, & elsewhere.

Everyone should read that post. It's more worrisome than anything Cronon put in his NYT op-ed.

Here is a link to that post:

http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/

["Who's Really Behind Recent Legislation in Wisconsin & Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn't Start Here"]

[Mar 30, 2011] Who's Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere (Hint It Didn't Start Here) Scholar as Citizen

Looks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an important element of Busheviks movement. In a way this is a Politburo.
March 15, 2011 | Scholar as Citizen

A Study Guide for Those Wishing to Know More

After watching the sudden and impressively well-organized wave of legislation being introduced into state legislatures that all seem to be pursuing parallel goals only tangentially related to current fiscal challenges –- ending collective bargaining rights for public employees, requiring photo IDs at the ballot box, rolling back environmental protections, privileging property rights over civil rights, and so on –- I've found myself wondering where all of this legislation is coming from.

The Walker-Koch Prank Phone Call Reveals A Lot, But Not Nearly Enough

The prank phone call that Governor Scott Walker unhesitatingly accepted from a blogger purporting to be billionaire conservative donor David Koch has received lots of airplay, and it certainly demonstrates that the governor is accustomed to having conversations with deep-pocketed folks who support his cause. If you've not actually seen the transcript, it's worth a careful reading, and is accessible here:
http://host.madison.com/wsj/article_531276b6-3f6a-11e0-b288-001cc4c002e0.html

But even though I'm more than prepared to believe that David and Charles Koch have provided large amounts of money to help fund the conservative flood tide that is sweeping through state legislatures right now, I just don't find it plausible that two brothers from Wichita, Kansas, no matter how wealthy, can be responsible for this explosion of radical conservative legislation. It also goes without saying that Scott Walker cannot be single-handedly responsible for what we're seeing either; I wouldn't believe that even for Wisconsin, let alone for so many other states. The governor clearly welcomes the national media attention he's receiving as a spear-carrier for the movement. But he's surely not the architect of that movement.

So…who is?

Conservative History Post-1964: A Brilliant Turnaround Story

I can't fully answer that question in a short note, but I can sketch its outline and offer advice for those who want to fill in more of the details.

I'll start by saying –- a professorial impulse I just can't resist -– that it's well worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with the history of the conservative movement in the United States since the 1950s if you haven't already studied the subject. Whatever you think of its politics, I don't think there can be any question that the rise of modern conservatism is one of the great turnaround stories in twentieth-century American history. It's quite a fascinating series of events, in which a deeply marginalized political movement –- tainted by widespread public reaction against Senator Joe McCarthy, the John Birch Society, and the massively defeated Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964 –- managed quite brilliantly to remake itself (and American politics) in the decades that followed.

I provide a brief reading list at the end of this note because many people from other parts of the political spectrum often seem not to take the intellectual roots of American conservatism very seriously. I believe this is a serious mistake. One key insight you should take from this history is that after the Goldwater defeat in 1964, visionary conservative leaders began to build a series of organizations and networks designed to promote their values and construct systematic strategies for sympathetic politicians. Some of these organizations are reasonably well known -– for instance, the Heritage Foundation, founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, a Racine native and UW-Madison alumnus who also started the Moral Majority and whose importance to the movement is almost impossible to overestimate -– but many of these groups remain largely invisible.

That's why events like the ones we've just experienced in Wisconsin can seem to come out of nowhere. Few outside the conservative movement have been paying much attention, and that is ill-advised. (I would, by the way, say the same thing about people on the right who don't make a serious effort to understand the left in this country.)

It's also important to understand that events at the state level don't always originate in the state where they occur. Far from it.

Basic Tools for Researching Conservative Groups

If you run across a conservative organization you've never heard of before and would like to know more about it, two websites can sometimes be helpful for quick overviews:

Both of these lean left in their politics, so they obviously can't be counted on to provide sympathetic descriptions of conservative groups. (If I knew of comparable sites whose politics were more conservative, I'd gladly provide them here; please contact me if you know of any and I'll add them to this note.) But for obvious reasons, many of these groups prefer not to be monitored very closely. Many maintain a low profile, so one sometimes learns more about them from their left-leaning critics than from the groups themselves.

I don't want this to become an endless professorial lecture on the general outlines of American conservatism today, so let me turn to the question at hand: who's really behind recent Republican legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere? I'm professionally interested in this question as a historian, and since I can't bring myself to believe that the Koch brothers single-handedly masterminded all this, I've been trying to discover the deeper networks from which this legislation emerged.

Here's my preliminary answer.

Telling Your State Legislators What to Do: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

The most important group, I'm pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft "model bills" that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

If you're as impressed by these numbers as I am, I'm hoping you'll agree with me that it may be time to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its seeks to promote.

You can start by studying ALEC's own website. Begin with its home page at http://www.alec.org

First visit the "About" menu to get a sense of the organization's history and its current members and funders. But the meat of the site is the "model legislation" page, which is the gateway to the hundreds of bills that ALEC has drafted for the benefit of its conservative members.

http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Model_Legislation1

You'll of course be eager to look these over…but you won't be able to, because you're not a member.

Becoming a Member of ALEC: Not So Easy to Do

How do you become a member? Simple. Two ways. You can be an elected Republican legislator who, after being individually vetted, pays a token fee of roughly $100 per biennium to join. Here's the membership brochure to use if you meet this criterion:

http://www.alec.org/AM/pdf/2011_legislative_brochure.pdf

What if you're not a Republican elected official? Not to worry. You can apply to join ALEC as a "private sector" member by paying at least a few thousand dollars depending on which legislative domains most interest you. Here's the membership brochure if you meet this criterion:

http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/Corporate_Brochure.pdf

Then again, even if most of us had this kind of money to contribute to ALEC, I have a feeling that membership might not necessarily be open to just anyone who is willing to pay the fee. But maybe I'm being cynical here.

Which Wisconsin Republican politicians are members of ALEC? Good question. How would we know? ALEC doesn't provide this information on its website unless you're able to log in as a member. Maybe we need to ask our representatives. One might think that Republican legislators gathered at a national ALEC meeting could be sufficiently numerous to trigger the "walking quorum rule" that makes it illegal for public officials in Wisconsin to meet unannounced without public notice of their meeting. But they're able to avoid this rule (which applies to every other public body in Wisconsin) because they're protected by a loophole in what is otherwise one of the strictest open meetings laws in the nation. The Wisconsin legislature carved out a unique exemption from that law for its own party caucuses, Democrats and Republicans alike. So Wisconsin Republicans are able to hold secret meetings with ALEC to plan their legislative strategies whenever they want, safe in the knowledge that no one will be able to watch while they do so.

(See http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dls/OMPR/2010OMCG-PRO/2010_OML_Compliance_Guide.pdf for a full discussion of Wisconsin's otherwise very strict Open Meetings Law.)

If it has seemed to you while watching recent debates in the legislature that many Republican members of the Senate and Assembly have already made up their minds about the bills on which they're voting, and don't have much interest in listening to arguments being made by anyone else in the room, it's probably because they did in fact make up their minds about these bills long before they entered the Capitol chambers. You can decide for yourself whether that's a good expression of the "sifting and winnowing" for which this state long ago became famous.

Partners in Wisconsin and Other States: SPN, MacIver Institute, WPRI

An important partner of ALEC's, by the way, is the State Policy Network (SPN), which helps coordinate the activities of a wide variety of conservative think tanks operating at the state level throughout the country. See its home page at http://www.spn.org/

Many of the publications of these think tanks are accessible and downloadable from links on the SPN website, which are well worth taking the time to peruse and read. A good starting place is: http://www.spn.org/members/

Two important SPN members in Wisconsin are the MacIver Institute for Public Policy: http://maciverinstitute.com/

and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI): http://www.wpri.org

If you want to be a well-informed Wisconsin citizen and don't know about their work, you'll probably want to start visiting these sites more regularly. You'll gain a much better understanding of the underlying ideas that inform recent Republican legislation by doing so.

Understanding What These Groups Do

As I said earlier, it's not easy to find exact details about the model legislation that ALEC has sought to introduce all over the country in Republican-dominated statehouses. But you'll get suggestive glimpses of it from the occasional reporting that has been done about ALEC over the past decade. Almost all of this emanates from the left wing of the political spectrum, so needs to be read with that bias always in mind.

Interestingly, one of the most critical accounts of ALEC's activities was issued by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a 2002 report entitled Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States. Although NRDC and Defenders may seem like odd organizations to issue such a report, some of ALEC's most concentrated efforts have been directed at rolling back environmental protections, so their authorship of the report isn't so surprising. The report and its associated press release are here:
http://alecwatch.org/11223344.pdf
http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/020228.asp
There's also an old, very stale website associated with this effort at
http://alecwatch.org/

A more recent analysis of ALEC's activities was put together by the Progressive States Network in February 2006 under the title Governing the Nation from the Statehouses, available here:
http://www.progressivestates.org/content/57/governing-the-nation-from-the-statehouses
There's an In These Times story summarizing the report at
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2509/
More recent stories can be found at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-mogulescu/alec-states-unions_b_832428.htmlview=print
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/6084/corporate_con_game (about the Arizona immigration law)
and there's very interesting coverage of ALEC's efforts to disenfranchise student voters at
http://campusprogress.org/articles/conservative_corporate_advocacy_group_alec_behind_voter_disenfranchise/
and
http://www.progressivestates.org/node/26400

For just one example of how below-the-radar the activities of ALEC typically are, look for where the name of the organization appears in this recent story from the New York Times about current efforts in state legislatures to roll back the bargaining rights of public employee unions:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/business/04labor.html
Hint: ALEC is way below the fold!

A Cautionary Note

What you'll quickly learn even from reading these few documents is that ALEC is an organization that has been doing very important political work in the United States for the past forty years with remarkably little public or journalistic scrutiny. I'm posting this long note in the conviction that it's time to start paying more attention. History is being made here, and future historians need people today to assemble the documents they'll eventually need to write this story. Much more important, citizens today may wish to access these same documents to be well informed about important political decisions being made in our own time during the frequent meetings that ALEC organizes between Republican legislators and representatives of many of the wealthiest corporations in the United States.

I want to add a word of caution here at the end. In posting this study guide, I do not want to suggest that I think it is illegitimate in a democracy for citizens who share political convictions to gather for the purpose of sharing ideas or creating strategies to pursue their shared goals. The right to assemble, form alliances, share resources, and pursue common ends is crucial to any vision of democracy I know. (That's one reason I'm appalled at Governor Walker's ALEC-supported efforts to shut down public employee unions in Wisconsin, even though I have never belonged to one of those unions, probably never will, and have sometimes been quite critical of their tactics and strategies.) I'm not suggesting that ALEC, its members, or its allies are illegitimate, corrupt, or illegal. If money were changing hands to buy votes, that would be a different thing, but I don't believe that's mainly what's going on here. Americans who belong to ALEC do so because they genuinely believe in the causes it promotes, not because they're buying or selling votes.

This is yet another example, in other words, of the impressive and highly skillful ways that conservatives have built very carefully thought-out institutions to advocate for their interests over the past half century. Although there may be analogous structures at the other end of the political spectrum, they're frequently not nearly so well coordinated or so disciplined in the ways they pursue their goals. (The nearest analog to ALEC that I'm aware of on the left is the Progressive States Network, whose website can be perused at http://www.progressivestates.org/ but PSN was only founded in 2005, does not mainly focus on writing model legislation, and is not as well organized or as disciplined as ALEC.)

To be fair, conservatives would probably argue that the liberal networks they oppose were so well woven into the fabric of government agencies, labor unions, universities, churches, and non-profit organizations that these liberal networks organize themselves and operate quite differently than conservative networks do –- and conservatives would be able to able to muster valid evidence to support such an argument, however we might finally evaluate the persuasiveness of that evidence.

Again, I want anyone reading this post to understand that I am emphatically not questioning the legitimacy of advocacy networks in a democracy. To the contrary: I believe they are essential to democracy. My concern is rather to promote open public discussion and the genuine clash of opinions among different parts of the political spectrum, which I believe is best served by full and open disclosure of the interests of those who advocate particular policies.

I believe this is especially important when policies are presented as having a genuine public interest even though their deeper purpose may be to promote selfish or partisan gains.

Reasserting Wisconsin's Core Values: Decency, Fairness, Generosity, Compromise

ALEC's efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democratic, for instance, and its efforts to destroy public-sector unions because they also tend to favor Democrats, strike me as objectionable and anti-democratic (as opposed to anti-Democratic) on their face. As a pragmatic centrist in my own politics, I very strongly favor seeking the public good from both sides of the partisan aisle, and it's not at all clear to me that recent legislation in Wisconsin or elsewhere can be defended as doing this. Shining a bright light on ALEC's activities (and on other groups as well, across the political spectrum) thus seems to me a valuable thing to do whether or not one favors its political goals.

This is especially true when politicians at the state and local level promote legislation drafted at the national level that may not actually best serve the interests of their home districts and states. ALEC strategists may think they're serving the national conservative cause by promoting legislation like the bills recently passed in Wisconsin–but I see my state being ripped apart by the resulting controversies, and it's hard to believe that Wisconsin is better off as a result. This is not the way citizens or politicians have historically behaved toward each other in this state, and I for one am not happy with the changes in our political culture that seem to be unfolding right now. I'm hoping that many of my fellow Wisconsinites, whether they lean left or right, agree with me that it's time to take a long hard look at what has been happening and try to find our bearings again.

I have always cherished Wisconsin for its neighborliness, and this is not the way neighbors treat each other.

One conclusion seems clear: what we've witnessed in Wisconsin during the opening months of 2011 did not originate in this state, even though we've been at the center of the political storm in terms of how it's being implemented. This is a well-planned and well-coordinated national campaign, and it would be helpful to know a lot more about it.

Let's get to work, fellow citizens.

William Cronon

P.S.: Note to historians and journalists: we really need a good biography of Paul Weyrich.

An Introductory Bibliography on the Recent History of American Conservatism

There are many other important studies, but these are reasonable starting points.

See also

[Dec 31, 2010] Symbols and Substance

The whole fake sincerity of Obama is a powerful symbol of today's political manipulation...
The Baseline Scenario

Arnold Kling wins the prize for the most erudite post of the past week, a review of The Symbolic Uses of Politics, by Murray Edelman. Kling cites not only Sigmund Freud and J.D. Salinger, but Theodor Adorno and Seymour Lipset (with specific books, not just names), among others.

In Kling's summary, Edelman divided the political sphere into insiders and outsiders (Kling's terms). Insiders are basically special interests: small in number but well organized and with specific goals. Outsiders, or the "unorganized masses," are the rest of us: we have some interests, but we are poorly organized to pursue them and therefore are generally unsuccessful. In particular, Outsiders suffer from poor and limited information, and therefore are especially susceptible to political symbols. In Kling's words:

"Given these differences, the Insiders use overt political dramas as symbols that placate the masses while using covert political activity to plunder them. What we would now call rent-seeking succeeds because Outsiders are dazzled by the symbols while Insiders grab the substance."

This seems like a pretty straightforward description of why interest groups are politically powerful. I think Edelman's additional contribution is the emphasis on the use of symbols by the Insiders to distract the Outsiders: "For Edelman, symbolic reassurance and political quiescence were somewhat troubling phenomena. The masses were being lulled by symbolic gestures into accepting adverse political outcomes."

In any case, Kling thinks that Simon and I are too positive about Elizabeth Warren - not because Warren is a bad person, but because, in his words, "expect the banks to be able to do a more efficient job of rent extraction with Elizabeth Warren in place than before."

One the one hand, this is a valid point. I'm pretty sure that Kling and I agree that a major problem with our financial system has been the ability of entrenched incumbents to use government policy as a rent-extraction device; think, for example, of the banks lobbying the OCC and the OTS to preempt anti-predatory lending laws in the early 2000s. Since we live in a democracy, the ability of elites to use the government to their advantage requires our political institutions to have some minimum level of credibility. If everyone believed that government was simply a tool for the rich and powerful, the entire system would break down and would have to be maintained by force, if at all. (This is like my argument that a facially progressive yet riddled-with-regressive-exceptions tax code is just what rich people want - were it not facially progressive, it would have legitimacy problems.)

Chris:

James, yes Warren is a sincerely concerned person, but her personality is not the question. It was almost certainly impressed on her as a condition for getting the job (temporarily) that she was part of the team, and the team is headed by Tim. And Geithner is the president's most powerful advisor, because Obama doesn't understand economics that well. In fact, Geithner seems to be the single most powerful person in the whole administration, including the president. He was the one who basically brokered the recent sellout tax cuts deal, not the president, who was his cheerleader. And every important thing Warren does must be approved by Geithner.

Only about a week after she got the job, Warren went before a group of business leaders and said "Let's be friends." Then she gave a speech in which she said her main role in the new job is establishing "principles," not burdening business with lots of new laws and regulations. This was precisely what business has been demanding.

Yes, the system needs the threats of losses in order to gain legitimacy. But the administration is trying to prevent losses by gaining the trust or faith of the "outsiders" - by selling more personalities such as Warren, whom many, including you, trust, and is also more attractive than Geithner.

Summers, on the other hand, definitely isn't photogenic and didn't instill trust, so he'll be replaced by a new, more sincere-looking face. Unfortunately the majority of voters respond most to faces and body language when deciding whom to trust. Just look at the number of blog comments here and there by people who hate the tax cut deal but say they accept it because they trust Obama. I.e., Obama's face, voice, and posture help turn them into "outsiders." Progressives have to start from there and somehow deconstruct the American political facelift system.

Carla:

James: thanks for alerting your loyal readers (of whom I am now one) to Arnold Kling's post on Edelman's book. Very interesting stuff. In your post on THAT post, you say: "And besides, isn't all this "symbolic reassurance and political quiescence" stuff more applicable to the Tea Party, which is itself a big-budget re-run of What's the Matter with Kansas? Or "is this time different"?"

Different from what? Gee, from where I sit, "all this 'symbolic reassurance and political quiesence' stuff" applies to Obama supporters and the Democratic party BIG TIME. Elizabeth Warren seems like a smart, nice lady, with her head and her heart in the right place. I like her a lot - a whole lot. And she won't be able to do a darned thing. It's a tragedy to take a good mind, and a decent person like Liz Warren, and completely waste her, but we do that all the time in this country. That's what our system is set up to do.

We need a sea change. Bernie is the Best. But he can't be the change we need because he's fundamentally just too decent. This is a brutal country; I fear the change will not, in any way, be pretty.

Bruce E. Woych

AS THE LAWYERS SAY, CARLA, "TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!"

CHECK HERE:
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/index.html THERE ARE SEVERAL ARTICLES OF EXTREME INTEREST ON THE PAGE LINKED HERE FROM SALON.
Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory

I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. I am the author of two New York Times Bestselling books: "How Would a Patriot Act?" (May, 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and "A Tragic Legacy" (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy. My most recent book, "Great American Hypocrites", examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press, and was released in April, 2008, by Random House/Crown.

Twitter: @ggreenwald
E-mail: GGreenwald@salon.com

Hugh Sansom:

First, I recommend James Q. Wilson's Bureaucracy for a study of how government agencies can be susceptible to a range of interests.

Second, there is an alternative explanation regarding the belief of The People and government's servility to the rich…. In fact, the vast majority of Americans _do_ believe "a tool for the rich and powerful", but

  1. Most Americans correctly perceived that they are effectively (and, increasingly, formally) disenfranchised.
  2. Even if Americans are not disenfranchised, both government and the rich and powerful it actually serves are insulated against the opinions of the majority.
  3. Even if people are not disenfranchised _and_ neither government nor the rich are particularly insulated, a huge number of people _don't care_. This is the point made by, among others, John Kenneth Galbraith (in, to cite specific books, "The Culture of Contentment"). The genius of the American social and economic institutions created under FDR lay in the creation of a threshold level of well-being below which most Americans neither fell nor needed to fear falling.

It is this last component that is now changing, and has been since the late 1970s (late Carter). Those institutions, most notably social security, have been unrelenting attack by Republicans and most Democrats for 30 years. But with a media and educational structure which is _either_ part of the rich-powerful elite _or_ is beholden to it, most Americans are grossly ill-informed. And, despite the 30-years war, the system is still largely intact, and most Americans (though fewer than before) remain content.

But, what has changed is at the margins - the left and the right. Most at both margins are not all that much better-informed than the middle majority, but the margins - for many reasons - feel more alienated.

My contention is that, whereas the right-wing, the right margin systematically fails to correctly identify the causes of their feelings of alienation, a significant number on the left do correctly identify them. Predictably, it is therefore a great deal more important that the left margin be exiled - as the government, the media and, to a lesser extent, academia, do.

I suggest that my explanation (which is, of course, not the least bit original) has greater explanatory and predictive power.

The Architect: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power

Very Alarming!, September 12, 2006
By Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" (Phoenix, AZ.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)
This review is from: The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power (Hardcover)

"The Architect" reports that Karl Rove's ambition is to build a right-wing dynasty that can dominate American politics for decades, and that ultimately he will be remembered for figuring out how to game the American political system.

The politics of deception has become a conventional political tool for Rove-aided Republicans. His history is to use surrogate organizations and third-party operatives to attack opponents - without leaving either Rove's or his candidates fingerprints.

Rove's special talent is achieving synergy - pleasing moneyed and/or voter-rich coalitions while undermining Democratic party strengths. For example, language inserted into the Homeland Security Bill restricting TSA employees' ability to unionize pleases big business, while reducing Democrats' ability to derive strength from government unions; a "special bonus" was achieved through also offering a means to attack Democrats rising to unions' defense as "weak on defending America" --> defeat of at least one Democrat senator (Max Cleland).

Similarly with vouchers and the "No Child Left Behind" act - this helps motivate the Christian Right, homeschoolers, and anti-government conservatives to the polls, boost Republicans' image as pro-education (even among African-Americans), while undercutting teacher union strength and their ability to support Democrats. Privatizing Social Security obviously would bring increased revenues for Wall Street (and more Republican donations from them), boost the Republican-leaning "investor class," and loosen Democrat strength among the elderly.

Early on Rove realized that politically conservative Christian evangelicals were easy to organize - they were already organized into churches. Rove saw Ralph Reed (Christian Coalition leader) as an asset, and thus "parked" him at Enron as an energy lobbyist, awaiting Bush II's candidacy. From others Rove also recognized that traditional Catholics and Orthodox Jews were similarly inclined to be politically conservative. Emphasizing support for Israel served to further bring conservative Jews and Christians together into the Bush camp (the latter hoping to bring about biblical prophesies about "end-times"), and siphoned off funds from Democrats.

However, analysis of the 2000 election convinced Rove that over three million of these groups had not voted. Thus, to invigorate the group he launched an emphasis on attacking homosexuals - despite the fact that his father was a homosexual, and most also believe the Republican Party Chairman is as well. (Rove had used this ploy earlier in Bush vs. Richards in the '94 Texas gubernatorial race, taking one of Richards' strengths - her inclusiveness - and turning it into a weakness. Similarly, he launched a whisper campaign against an Alabama judicial candidate well-known as a benefactor of troubled youth - spreading suspicions that he was a pedophile.)

Attempting to sell Social Security privatization, Rove's "signature approach" also appeared vs. AARP, the leading opponent. Ads were taken out claiming that AARP supported same-sex marriages, based on the organization's objection to wording in the Ohio anti-gay marriage amendment (it feared the wording would also ban elderly heterosexuals living together).

Meanwhile, the Bush II administration, instead of working out effective solutions to terrorism, Katrina, the economy, etc., focuses on weakening enforcement of regulations against businesses and the wealth, while increasing same vs. unions.

Bottom Line: Rove and Bush II decision-making is dominated by political maneuvering, instead of what's best for the nation - this explains Bush II's reliance on cronies rather than experts. Worse, Rove has probably irrevocably changed American politics for the worse. In doing so, he has taken advantage of the overwhelming complexity and extent of government today that prevents citizens from adequately following and analyzing events. Rove's actions show that he lacks a decent moral compass; unfortunately, Bush's retention of Rove doesn't say much for him either.

Fearsome Look into Karl Rove's Machiavellian Machinations Presented with Fierce Determination, November 3, 2006

By Ed Uyeshima (San Francisco, CA USA) - This review is from: The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power (Hardcover)

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove's Machiavellian methods behind George W. Bush's gubernatorial and presidential election victories have garnered a begrudging admiration from conservative politicos and pundits. Texas journalists James Moore and Wayne Slater know their subject quite well since they are also responsible for the incisive book upon which the 2004 film version of "Bush's Brain" was based. The fiery documentary detailed Rove's tactics in orchestrating the successful 2000 presidential campaign. Moore and Slater's new book goes much further in showing a man who has made himself even more indispensable as a virtual Iago figure to Bush's Othello.

The co-authors assert that nothing is sacred to Rove, in particular, founding democratic principles and the U.S. Constitution, when it comes to attaining victory and that in fact, the amoral gamesmanship he feels is required is what motivates him. It's a scarifying portrait but one that comes across as far more textured than one would expect due to some surprising disclosures from the co-authors. They fill in details of Rove's background with his long-standing affiliation with several neo-con organizations, which in turn, shaped his drive toward dismantling unions, privatizing Social Security and diminishing those he saw as his political enemies, homosexuals and anti-war activists. However, the most publicized disclosure is the personal account of how Rove's beloved stepfather revealed himself to be gay and left his mother for another man. It is debatable whether this perceived act of betrayal was the lightning rod for Rove's aggregation of anti-gay sentiments.

At the same time, his persistent efforts to smear opponents appear to have this common thread, and the co-authors effectively show us to what degree he was willing to use this tactic. It is not a new campaigning approach, but it's one that Rove has elevated to an art form in 2004. Targeting the Christian fundamentalist conservatives that constitute the largest cross-section of the Republican base, Rove used whatever means necessary to convey the conviction that Democratic opponents were dominated by a significant homosexual lobby. The most egregious maneuver was how he purportedly orchestrated a campaign of automatic telephone messages to be placed to thousands of numbers nationwide. The infamous message stated it was from the Kerry campaign and that if elected, gay rights would be a top priority. Moreover, beyond the presidential campaign, the Republican machine under Rove's direction managed to put anti-marriage equality referenda on eleven state ballots under the guise of groups like the Traditional Values Coalition, which were fronts for the religious right.

While anti-gay paranoia was his linchpin, Rove was not limited in his arsenal of weapons, whether it was vote suppression in Ohio where Bush won by a slim margin or pressure placed on members of Congress to support controversial bills. Moore and Slater detail the smear campaign developed against Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame to cover up the truth about Bush's rationale for invading Iraq, as well as the connection to Jack Abramoff and the resulting corporate corruption scandals. While Rove's hypocrisy is fiercely documented and obviously reviled by his opponents, his supporters are ambivalent about his methods. Moore and Slater provide a comprehensive portrait of a man who based on his record, illustrates a total disregard for democracy. He has amassed a fearsome respect among the White House inner circle for the past six years, and one wonders from this fascinating book whether a possible dismantling of the Republican hegemony in the House will diminish his standing.

Excellent research., January 1, 2007
By W. P. Strange "Bill's shelf" (Williamstown, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

This review is from: The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power (Hardcover)
I find myself enjoying non-fiction more and more as I grow older, but books like this make me stop and think, maybe I should stick to biographies, standard historical texts and of course fiction. That of course is what I wish this book was, fiction. I never knew much about Karl Rove, and never really thought about the man behind the man type of political animal. I'm aware they are more into the "game" than anything else, and that winning is all there is - just like ambitious coaches. Isn't that what Rove is, essentially, a coach. If so his personality and the way he goes about the business of creating an image, decimating opponents - with bald faced lies more often than not- is disturbing.

This is a very well written book, easy to follow and organized so that following the progression and development of the story Moore is telling is comfortable. Obviously there was a lot of research done and it is well used, not over used. I checked a few of the texts referred to and could find nothing objectionable as "out of context", and the opinions of the author is controlled and not intrusive. As a reading experience it was pleasant enough even if the material was oh so disturbing.

In the last four years I have probably read more political books than the previous thirty. Maybe because they are everywhere and being talked about constantly. Certainly they are no more interesting than say, "The Making of a President" from the 1960s. Most of the best sellers in this category are extremely divisive and in many cases, just by their titles, mean spirited (case in point the savage diatribes of Ann Coulter such as "How to talk to a Liberal, If You must".) and of little real value.

That said, "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power" is very, very disturbing. Here is a man who has decided that ultra-conservative thought must rule for the next century, and who does he pick as his standard bearer but George W. Bush, a man with little experience, proven ineptitude and incompetence in business, a draft dodger who doesn't even take his commitment to the air national guard seriously and a former drunk.

Few people now will deny that as President - an office he didn't even win by popular vote - George W. Bush has remained true to his character and blundered his way through his first term in such a horrible way that no one with an ounce of sense would have voted for him for a second term - which he likely did not win legitimately either - but with a man like Karl Rove there to lie about his opponents, distort the truth about them and deny the absolute irrefutable truth about his candidate's own back ground and lack of moral character he remains the president for four more disastrous years.

Karl Rove is a mastermind when it comes to duplicity. He saw to it that true American heroes who served during the Vietnam conflict were degraded (John Kerry, John Murtha, John McCain, etal) and then promotes Bush as a man who has high regard for the military. What monumental hypocrisy. The saddest part is that with all the facts before the American electorate Bush still remains president. Perhaps the contempt Rove expresses for the average American voter is the hook he has so effectively used, proving not once, but twice that an inept, incompetent, lazy, anti-intellectual, pretend evangelical christan can be a winner if the man behind him has no ethical standards, or moral compass and is willing to lie, cheat and steal to achieve his nefarious results.

Sadly, he is very, very good at it as this book shows. Sadly the voters buy it, and even more sadly we all loose in the end and worst of all the America of ideological moral standards and a reputation for care and concern for the down trodden is lost, and perhaps never to be regained.

Karl Rove has created the absolute worst world leader in the history of our great democracy and he is actually proud of himself. At the risk of repeating myself, how sad for us all.

[Dec 23, 2008] David Michael Green Hey, Reagan Democrats!

Sometime in the future...

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, if you'll just follow me over in this direction, I'd like to show you one of our rarest and most reviled species here at The Human Zoo – it's the proverbial 'Reagan Democrat'.

"Most of your younger visitors here at the Zoo have no idea what a Reagan Democrat could be, so I always like to take the time to explain it to them. Indeed, most of them don't even know what Reagan was, except that they keep hearing the people who wrecked Old America talk about this wrinkled prune faced guy with the Gumby hair as if he were some sort of deity. I get a lot of questions about how someone could actually have done things that don't sound even remotely plausible, but I generally leave that for the historians to explain, other than to remind people that injecting religious dogma into politics doesn't just mean stupidity only when it comes to policies related to sexuality, war, taxation, the economy or the environment.

"But already I digress... The Reagan Democrat (technically, Imbecelicus politici) was always the strangest and most contemptuous of species from the habitat of American politics, as you've perhaps already heard. Try to imagine another example from the animal kingdom that could be so readily counted upon to bring harm upon itself and others. There are some of course, but usually they are simply ignorant animals, often with very limited cranial capacity.

"The Reagan Democrat, on the other hand, was simply obnoxiously greedy, and took great pains to aggregate to itself as much stuff as was possible, including even meaningless psychological affirmations of its existential worth. It wasn't very long, of course, before another animal in the jungle noticed this tendency, and established a parasitic relationship with the Reagan Democrat. These others were known as The Wealthy (Plutocratus illegitimi), and they got very rich – though they could still never seem to achieve happiness – by exploiting the opportunities provided to them by the Reagan Democrat. A very mean-spirited and deceitful group of marketing gurus like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove were generally the weapon of choice for accomplishing this.

"Anyhow, before we enter the exhibit, perhaps I should stop now and take any questions. Yes, you, young lady, what can I tell you?"

"Well, sir, you've never quite defined what a Reagan Democrat is. And, especially, why someone associated with Mr. Reagan would be a Democrat. Wasn't he from that other party, the, uh..., the... Regressocans? ...the Degenocrats?"

"Ah, fine questions, indeed, and you're quite right that I've been remiss in not explaining those fundamentals so far. It's an occupational hazard, I suppose. We zoo curators get so caught up in admiring our own erudition that we sometimes we forget to do our jobs properly!

"Speaking of which, where were we...? Oh, yes, I was going to answer your questions about the meaning of this term. First of all, let's get that political party name straight. Reagan was a Republican. That's what makes the creature we're about to see so interesting. It came from working class roots, often recently arrived just a generation earlier from some very poor Eastern European country or such. Its local social unit had only recently been elevated to the middle class, and this achievement had everything to do with the progressive policies the Democratic Party. For the first time ever, and because of these policies, it had a good job, a house in the suburbs, two cars, and it could send its offspring to institutions of higher education which had previously been reserved exclusively for elites, as represented by Mr. Reagan's party.

"But it was very, very greedy, and thus differentiated itself off into a new species which was marked by the fact that it could have its underdeveloped psychology readily appealed to for purposes of exploitation by Republican operatives, representing the economic elite species. In fact, it was actually pretty easy to do. All they had to do was throw some line about an evil foreign bogeyman down to the Reagan Democrat, or perhaps a story about uppity darker skinned members of the genus, or some televised ruse about how very, very bad people were out to destroy Christmas, the silly religious holiday of yore... Anything like that would generally work.

"It really didn't matter very much what ploy was chosen, though the more naked the appeal to greed or vanity, the better. For instance, a handful of elites could carve out for themselves massive chunks of the commonwealth's (formerly) common wealth, but as long as they tossed a few pennies in the direction of the Reagan Democrat at the same time, the latter was sure to support what amounted to his or her own financial undoing, every time. Likewise, since the Reagan Democrat tended to be the most fearful and the most self-loathing of animals in the human sphere, the basest appeals to its vanity could also buy votes en masse, and on the cheap, too. You just had to make him feel a little bigger than someone else – women, foreigners, brown people, homosexuals – it didn't really matter. Then you could get his vote and pick his pocket."

Machiavelli's Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove (Hardcover)

I want you to hurt like I do, July 29, 2008

By J. L LaRegina "Jim LaRegina" (New Jersey) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

At times journalist Paul Alexander's book MACHIAVELLI'S SHADOW: THE RISE AND FALL OF KARL ROVE reminds me of psychoanalyst Justin A. Frank's BUSH ON THE COUCH, a study of the emotional troubles that make George W. Bush what he is. As MACHIAVELLI'S SHADOW recounts, Rove, the infamous political adviser of Bush, learned the man he thought was his biological father was a stepfather when the stepdad, announcing he was homosexual, dumped the family. Rove's mother then committed suicide.

Karl Rove lost two fathers to rejection and a mother to suicide. The homosexual father went on to pose in body piercing magazines. MACHIAVELLI'S SHADOW does not suggest what psychological effects all that had on Rove, who toiled in the direct mail business while repeatedly failing to make a name for himself as a political adviser. But with all the rejection he experienced in his family and career, it's as if Karl Rove attempted to deny reality, trying to make winners out of fellow losers such as George W. Bush, as no one with any credibility wanted him around. Rove often proved them right, falling on his face more than he would admit. According to this book:

Karl Rove, the man they deem "Bush's Brain," is in reality Bush's lame brain.

In 2000 George W. Bush seized the White House not on account of Rove's savvy but because of Ronald Reagan's and George Iran-Contra Bush's partisan Supreme Court appointments. Without the five "justices" who stopped the 2000 Florida recount that would have awarded the Sunshine State and the presidency to Al Gore, Karl Rove would have gone back to licking postage stamps for a living, one more failed campaign under his belt.

Naming every egregious Rove/Bush move would be like detailing each home run Hank Aaron hit; there were just too many to elaborate on all. Some that MACHIAVELLI'S SHADOW neglects include:

Karl Rove is not a comic book villain, one who commits crimes alone. While MACHIAVELLI'S SHADOW names accomplices as it recounts the offenses Rove orchestrated, the corporate media deserve much blame for not pressing Rove and George W. Bush harder on their scandals. The best example of that does not even involve Bush. Working for a Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1986, a few days before a televised debate Rove calls a press conference to claim he found a listening device in the candidate's campaign headquarters, implying the Democratic opponent was eavesdropping.

The reporters promptly laugh in Rove's face, dismissing the stunt for what it was but several nonetheless write about the accusation. The corporate media act as nothing more than "He said, she said" stenographers instead of doing their job by investigating the matter. Rove's candidate wins the election. Too often journalists, like Karl Rove, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

It all reminds me of Michael Moore's 2003 Academy Awards speech, when he said, "We live in fictitious times." Read MACHIAVELLI'S SHADOW.

'Sycophant' Tony Blair used deceit to justify Iraq war, says former director of public prosecutions Politics guardian.co.uk

Tony Blair used "deceit" to persuade parliament and the British people to support war in Iraq, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said today.

In an article in the Times, Macdonald attacked Blair for engaging in "alarming subterfuge", for displaying "sycophancy" towards George Bush and for refusing to accept that his decisions were wrong.

Macdonald's comments about Blair's decision to go to war are more critical than anything that has been said so far by any of the senior civil servants who worked in Whitehall when Blair was prime minister.

Macdonald was DPP from 2003 until 2008 and he now practises law from Matrix Chambers, where Blair's barrister wife, Cherie, is also based.

In his article Macdonald highlighted a remark Blair made in an interview broadcast yesterday about supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein regardless of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to explain why he thought the former prime minister was guilty of deceit.

But Macdonald also expressed concerns about the Iraq inquiry, suggesting that some of its questioning so far had been "unchallenging" and that Sir John Chilcot and his team would be held in "contempt" if they failed to uncover the truth about the war.

Macdonald wrote: "The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions, and playing footsie on Sunday morning television does nothing to repair the damage.

"It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner, George Bush, and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war they had made perfectly clear they didn't want, and on a basis that it's increasingly hard to believe even he found truly credible."

Macdonald said that Blair's fundamental flaw was his "sycophancy towards power" and that he could not resist the "glamour" he attracted in Washington.

"In this sense he was weak and, as we can see, he remains so," Macdonald went on.

"Since those sorry days we have frequently heard him repeating the self-regarding mantra that 'hand on heart, I only did what I thought was right'. But this is a narcissist's defence, and self-belief is no answer to misjudgment: it is certainly no answer to death."

Macdonald said that, with the exceptions of some of the interventions from Sir Roderic Lyne, the questions asked when the Chilcot inquiry has been taking evidence from witnesses have been tame.

"If this is born of a belief that it creates an atmosphere more conducive to truth, it seems naive. The truth doesn't always glide out so compliantly; sometimes it struggles to be heard," Macdonald said.

Many commentators have criticised the fact that all members of the Chilcot team are establishment figures – Chilcot himself is a former permanent secretary – and Macdonald said the inquiry needed to prove its independence.

"In British public life, loyalty and service to power can sometimes count for more to insiders than any tricky questions of wider reputation. It's the regard you are held in by your peers that really counts, so that steadfastness in the face of attack and threatened exposure brings its own rich hierarchy of honour and reward.

"Disloyalty, on the other hand, means a terrible casting out, a rocky and barren Roman exile that few have the courage to endure."

Macdonald said Chilcot and his team needed to tell the truth without fear of offending the Whitehall establishment.

"If Chilcot fails to reveal the truth without fear in this Middle Eastern story of violence and destruction, the inquiry will be held in deserved and withering contempt," Macdonald said.

Yesterday, in an interview with Fern Britton broadcast on BBC1, Blair said he would have backed an attack on Iraq even if he had known that Saddam had no WMD.

"If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?" Blair was asked.

He replied: "I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]".

Blair added: "I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat."

[Oct 4, 2006] Google Boss Warns Politicians about Internet Power by Michelle Nichols

October 4, 2006 (Reuters) - Imagine being able to check instantly whether or not statements made by politicians were correct. That is the sort of service Google Inc. boss Eric Schmidt believes the Internet will offer within five years.

Politicians have yet to appreciate the impact of the online world, which will also affect the outcome of elections, Schmidt said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday.

He predicted that "truth predictor" software would, within five years, "hold politicians to account." People would be able to use programs to check seemingly factual statements against historical data to see to see if they were correct.

"One of my messages to them (politicians) is to think about having every one of your voters online all the time, then inputting 'is this true or false.' We (at Google) are not in charge of truth but we might be able to give a probability," he told the newspaper.

The chairman and chief executive of the world's most popular Internet search engine was speaking during a visit to Britain this week, where he met British Prime Minister Tony Blair and spoke at the opposition Conservative Party's annual conference.

"Many of the politicians don't actually understand the phenomenon of the Internet very well," Schmidt told the Financial Times. "It's partly because of their age ... often what they learn about the Internet they learn from their staffs and their children."

The advent of television taught political leaders the art of the sound bite. The Internet will also force them to adapt.

"The Internet has largely filled a role of funding for politicians ... but it has not yet affected elections. It clearly will," Schmidt said.

Writing in the Sun tabloid, the Google boss said the online world has empowered ordinary people with the ability to challenge governments, the media and business.

"It has broken down the barriers that exist between people and information, effectively democratizing access to human knowledge," Schmidt wrote.

"This has made us much more powerful as individuals."

© Reuters 2006

Rovism, the one holding the strings

www.ezboard.com

Rovism begins, as one might suspect from the most merciless of political consiglieres with Machiavelli's rule of force: "A prince is respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy." No administration since Warren Harding's has rewarded its friends so lavishly, and none has been as willing to bully anyone who strays from its message.There is no dissent in the Rove White House without reprisal.

Bush entered the office promising to be a "uniter, not a divider." But Rove is not about uniting. What Rove quickly grasped is that it is easier and more efficasious to exploit the cultural and social divide than to look for common ground. No recent administration has eagerly played wedge issues- gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, faith-based initiatives-to keep the nation rolling, in the pure Rovism belief that the President's conservative supporters will always be angrier and more energized than his opponents. Division, then, is not a side effect of policy; in Rovism, it is the sole purpose of policy.

The short of it is that Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness. Ironically, the very force that the administration says it is fighting.

The idea that the United States is an ironfisted theocracy is terrifying, and it should give every citizen pause. This time, it is not about policy. This time, for the first time, it is about the nature of American government.

We all have reason to be very afraid.

United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

[Oct 24, 2004] KARL ROVE: AMERICA'S MULLAH by Neal Gabler

** This election is about Rovism, and the outcome threatens to transform the U.S. into an ironfisted theocracy. **

Los Angeles Times
October 24, 2004

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-op-gabler24oct24,1,2272052.story

Even now, after Sen. John F. Kerry handily won his three debates with President Bush and after most polls show a dead heat, his supporters seem downbeat. Why? They believe that Karl Rove, Bush's top political operative, cannot be beaten. Rove the Impaler will do whatever it takes -- anything -- to make certain that Bush wins. This isn't just typical Democratic pessimism. It has been the master narrative of the 2004 presidential campaign in the mainstream media. Attacks on Kerry come and go -- flip-flopper, Swift boats, Massachusetts liberal -- but one constant remains, Rove, and everyone takes it for granted that he knows how to game the system.

Rove, however, is more than a political sharpie with a bulging bag of dirty tricks. His campaign shenanigans -- past and future -- go to the heart of what this election is about.

Democrats will tell you it is a referendum on Bush's incompetence or on his extremist right-wing agenda. Republicans will tell you it's about conservatism versus liberalism or who can better protect us from terrorists. They are both wrong. This election is about Rovism -- the insinuation of Rove's electoral tactics into the conduct of the presidency and the fabric of the government. It's not an overstatement to say that on Nov. 2, the fate of traditional American democracy will hang in the balance.

Rovism is not simply a function of Rove the political conniver sitting in the counsels of power and making decisions, though he does. No recent presidency has put policy in the service of politics as has Bush's. Because tactics can change institutions, Rovism is much more. It is a philosophy and practice of governing that pervades the administration and even extends to the Republican-controlled Congress. As Robert Berdahl, chancellor of UC Berkeley, has said of Bush's foreign policy, a subset of Rovism, it constitutes a fundamental change in "the fabric of constitutional government as we have known it in this country."

Rovism begins, as one might suspect from the most merciless of political consiglieres, with Machiavelli's rule of force: "A prince is respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy." No administration since Warren Harding's has rewarded its friends so lavishly, and none has been as willing to bully anyone who strays from its message.

There is no dissent in the Rove White House without reprisal.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki was retired after he disagreed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's transformation of the Army and then testified that invading Iraq would require a U.S. deployment of 200,000 soldiers.

Chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster was threatened with termination if he revealed before the vote that the administration had seriously misrepresented the cost of its proposed prescription drug plan to get it through Congress.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was peremptorily fired for questioning the wisdom of the administration's tax cuts, and former U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer III felt compelled to recant his statement that there were insufficient troops in Iraq.

Even accounting for the strong-arm tactics of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, this isn't government as we have known it. This is the Sopranos in the White House: "Cross us and you're road kill."

Naturally, the administration's treatment of the opposition is worse. Rove's mentor, political advisor Lee Atwater, has been quoted as saying: "What you do is rip the bark off liberals." That's how Bush has governed. There is a feeling, perhaps best expressed by Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller's keynote address at the Republican convention, that anyone who has the temerity to question: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power t is undermining the country. At times, Miller came close to calling Democrats traitors for putting up a presidential candidate.

This may be standard campaign rhetoric. But it's one thing to excoriate your opponents in a campaign, and quite another to continue berating them after the votes are counted.

Rovism regards any form of compromise as weakness. Politics isn't a bus we all board together, it's a steamroller.

No recent administration has made less effort to reach across the aisle, and thanks to Rovism, the Republican majority in Congress often operates on a rule of exclusion. Republicans blocked Democrats from participating in the bill-drafting sessions on energy, prescription drugs and intelligence reform in the House. As Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) told the New Yorker, "They don't consult with the nations of the world, and they don't consult with Congress, especially the Democrats in Congress. They can do it all themselves."

Bush entered office promising to be a "uniter, not a divider." But Rovism is not about uniting. What Rove quickly grasped is that it's easier and more efficacious to exploit the cultural and social divide than to look for common ground. No recent administration has as eagerly played wedge issues -- gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, faith-based initiatives -- to keep the nation roiling, in the pure Rovian belief that the president's conservative supporters will always be angrier and more energized than his opponents. Division, then, is not a side effect of policy; in Rovism, it is the purpose of policy.

The lack of political compromise has its correlate in the administration's stubborn insistence that it doesn't have to compromise with facts. All politicians operate within an Orwellian nimbus where words don't mean what they normally mean, but Rovism posits that there is no objective, verifiable reality at all. Reality is what you say it is, which explains why Bush can claim that postwar Iraq is going swimmingly or that a so-so economy is soaring. As one administration official told reporter Ron Suskind, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. . . . We're history's actors."

When neither dissent nor facts are recognized as constraining forces, one is infallible, which is the sum and foundation of Rovism. Cleverly invoking the power of faith to protect itself from accusations of stubbornness and insularity, this administration entertains no doubt, no adjustment, no negotiation, no competing point of view. As such, it eschews the essence of the American political system: flexibility and compromise.

In Rovism, toughness is the only virtue. The mere appearance of change is intolerable, which is why Bush apparently can't admit ever making a mistake. As Machiavelli put it, the prince must show that "his judgments are irrevocable."

Rovism is certainly not without its appeal. As political theorist Sheldon Wolin once characterized Machiavellian government, it promises the "economy of politics." Americans love toughness. They love swagger. In a world of complexity and uncertainty, especially after Sept. 11, they love the idea of a man who doesn't need anyone else. They even love the sense of mission, regardless of its wisdom.

These values run deep in the American soul, and Rovism consciously taps them. But they are not democratic. Unwavering discipline, demonization of foes, disdain for reality and a personal sense of infallibility based on faith are the stuff of a theocracy -- the president as pope or mullah and policy as religious warfare.

Boiled down, Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness -- ironically the force the administration says it is fighting. It imposes rather than proposes.

Rovism surreptitiously and profoundly changes our form of government, a government that has been, since its founding by children of the Enlightenment, open, accommodating, moderate and generally reasonable.

All administrations try to work the system to their advantage, and some, like Nixon's, attempt to circumvent the system altogether. Rove and Bush neither use nor circumvent, which would require keeping the system intact. They instead are reconfiguring the system in extra-constitutional, theocratic terms.

The idea of the United States as an ironfisted theocracy is terrifying, and it should give everyone pause. This time, it's not about policy. This time, for the first time, it's about the nature of American government.

We all have reason to be very, very afraid.

--Neal Gabler, a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg, is author of Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.

Crack party. By Bruce Reed

Modernism: Any time Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. feel down on their luck, they should take solace in the plight of British Tories. Under Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, Tories were on top of the world, dominating a weak, feckless Labour Party. Once Tony Blair modernized Labour, British conservatism collapsed and has scarcely been heard from since. A succession of Tory leaders have led the party to humiliation and defeat. In this past election, Blair cruised to victory even though his own party was up in arms about Iraq.

While Britain is not America, that morality tale holds lessons for both American parties. In a sense, Republicans and Democrats alike are always on the brink of elimination, if the opposing party can find and sustain a course that corrects its weaknesses so it can show off its strengths. As with any enterprise in a competitive environment, a party must modernize-or it will wither and die.

When Bill Clinton modernized the Democratic Party in the '90s, he, too, had Republicans on the ropes. In the space of two years, by winning the government shutdown, signing welfare reform, and balancing the federal budget on Democratic terms, Clinton rendered traditional conservatism irrelevant and laid the groundwork for a new progressive era.

In response, the Republican Party had to modernize, or at least pretend to. John McCain offered one path with "national greatness" conservatism. Bush and the Republican establishment chose another path with compassionate conservatism. In office, however, modernism lost out to Rovism-enough for Bush to win re-election, but in a way that leaves Republicans a few indictments and one smart opponent away from returning to irrelevance.

In 2008, Republicans will face this choice again. McCain will run as the modernizer once again promising a new conservatism based on old ideals of responsibility, strength, and national greatness. Social conservatives like Sam Brownback will vie to be the candidate of traditional values.

The Republican establishment and the two logical heirs to Rovism, Bill Frist and George Allen, will have to decide if Bush-Rove conservatism is still worth anything-or whether, like Frist's HCA stock, it needs to be dumped before it falls even further.

Change vs. More of the Same: The Tory race so far ought to lift the spirits of Republican and Democratic modernizers alike. By all accounts, Cameron electrified the party conference earlier this month with a speech called "Change to Win." That also happens to be the name of Andy Stern's coalition of breakaway republics in the American labor movement.

Cameron challenged his party to stop assuming that the other party's problems will convince the electorate to overlook the Tories' own. "That's a pathetic way for a great party to behave," Cameron said. "Let's have the courage to say: they've failed, but so have we." As Bob Shrum might say (but hasn't), "It's our fault, too."

The whole speech echoes the debate already under way in Democratic circles, just beginning in Republican circles, and reverberating among the out parties as far away as Australia:

"Some say 'hit Labour harder, and the electorate will come to their senses.' I say that's rubbish. People know that Labour have failed. They want to know how we will succeed. … Some say that we should move to the right. I say that will turn us into a fringe party, never able to challenge for government again."

Cameron could have been speaking to either party in America when he said, "We have to change and modernise our culture and attitudes and identity." He said that the one thing Labour fears most is "a Conservative Party that has the courage to change." And if anyone doubts that the Tory race in 2005 has anything to do with the Republican race in 2008, listen to Cameron's closing promise: "A Modern Compassionate Conservatism is right for our times, right for our party-and right for our country."

The surprising part is, Cameron is winning. He started as a long shot, but British bookies now make him the overwhelming favorite. Unless what's left of the old Conservative establishment can unite behind his uninspiring opponent, Cameron may win the party mantle without much more of a fight.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Republicans looking to figure out what "a Modern Compassionate Conservatism" might entail won't find much to go on in Cameron's platform. He has talked about universal service-an idea whose American champions include modernizers John McCain and Hillary Clinton. As the father of a disabled child, he warns conservatives to remember that many families depend on government services, and the Tory program shouldn't just be "an escape route for the privileged few."

The Tories' biggest problem is that, like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have a fully developed philosophy and program behind their Third Way. Cameron is still groping to find a Third Way of his own. "We'll share-that's right we'll share-the fruits of economic growth between tax reduction and public services," he says. Fair enough-but that sounds too much like Bush's plan to divvy up the surplus. That's not a theory of economic growth, it's a way for conservatives to share the fruits of New Democrat/New Labour prosperity.

So, Cameron could well turn out to be another fraudulent disciple of Rovism. But Tories, Republicans, and Democrats would still be wise to heed his warning: Make change your friend, or pain will be your mistress. ... 9:53 A.M. (link)

M of A - Rovism

LA Times has an analysis by Neal Gabler on Rovism. Even without the religious extremes taking over the Republican party, as has been discussed here in recent threads, the piece finds that the concepts applied by Rove in and of themself constitute a theocratic scheme.
This election is about Rovism - the insinuation of Rove's electoral tactics into the conduct of the presidency and the fabric of the government.
...
All politicians operate within an Orwellian nimbus where words don't mean what they normally mean, but Rovism posits that there is no objective, verifiable reality at all. Reality is what you say it is, ...

When neither dissent nor facts are recognized as constraining forces, one is infallible, which is the sum and foundation of Rovism. Cleverly invoking the power of faith to protect itself from accusations of stubbornness and insularity, this administration entertains no doubt, no adjustment, no negotiation, no competing point of view.
...
Americans love toughness. They love swagger. In a world of complexity and uncertainty, especially after Sept. 11, they love the idea of a man who doesn't need anyone else. They even love the sense of mission, regardless of its wisdom.

These values run deep in the American soul, and Rovism consciously taps them. But they are not democratic. Unwavering discipline, demonization of foes, disdain for reality and a personal sense of infallibility based on faith are the stuff of a theocracy - the president as pope or mullah and policy as religious warfare.

Boiled down, Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness - ironically the force the administration says it is fighting. It imposes rather than proposes.
...
All administrations try to work the system to their advantage, and some, like Nixon's, attempt to circumvent the system altogether. Rove and Bush neither use nor circumvent, which would require keeping the system intact. They instead are reconfiguring the system in extra-constitutional, theocratic terms.

Karl Rove in a Corner

Novemeber 2004 | The Atlantic

It is the close races that establish the reputations of great political strategists, and few have ever been closer than the 2000 presidential election. From the tumult of the lengthy recount, the absentee-ballot dispute, the charges of voter fraud, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court decision, George W. Bush emerged victorious by a margin of 537 votes in Florida-enough to elevate him to the presidency, and his chief strategist, Karl Rove, to the status of legend.

But the 2000 election was not Rove's closest race. That had come earlier, and serves as a greater testament to his skill. In 1994 a group called the Business Council of Alabama appealed to Rove to help run a slate of Republican candidates for the state supreme court. This would not have seemed a plum assignment to most consultants. No Republican had been elected to that court in more than a century. But the council was hopeful, in large part because Rove had faced precisely this scenario in Texas several years before, and had managed to get elected, in rapid succession, a Republican chief justice and a number of associate justices, and was well on his way to turning an all-Democratic court all Republican. Rove took the job.

The most important candidate among the four he would run that year was a retired judge and Alabama institution by the name of Perry O. Hooper, of whom it is still fondly remarked that in the lean years before Rove arrived he practically constituted the state's Republican Party by himself. A courtly man with an ornery streak and a stately head of white hair, Hooper seemed typecast for the role of southern chief justice, a role he hoped to wrest from the popular Democratic incumbent, Ernest "Sonny" Hornsby.

At the time, judicial races in Alabama were customarily low-key affairs. "Campaigning" tended to entail little more than presenting one's qualifications at a meeting of the bar association, and because the state was so staunchly Democratic, sometimes not even that much was required. It was not uncommon for a judge to step down before the end of his term and handpick a successor, who then ran unopposed.

All that changed in 1994. Rove brought to Alabama a formula, honed in Texas, for winning judicial races. It involved demonizing Democrats as pawns of the plaintiffs' bar and stoking populist resentment with tales of outrageous verdicts. At Rove's behest, Hooper and his fellow Republican candidates focused relentlessly on a single case involving an Alabama doctor from the richest part of the state who had sued BMW after discovering that, prior to delivery, his new car had been damaged by acid rain and repainted, diminishing its value. After a trial revealed this practice to be widespread, a jury slapped the automaker with $4 million in punitive damages. "It was the poster-child case of outrageous verdicts," says Bill Smith, a political consultant who got his start working for Rove on these and other Alabama races. "Karl figured out the vocabulary on the BMW case and others like it that point out not just liberal behavior but outrageous decisions that make you mad as hell."

Throughout the summer the Republican candidates barnstormed the state, invoking the decision at every stop as an example of "jackpot justice" perpetuated by "wealthy personal-injury trial lawyers"-phrases developed by Rove that have since been widely adopted. To channel anger over such verdicts toward the incumbent Democratic justices, Rove highlighted their long-standing practice of soliciting campaign donations from trial lawyers-just as Republicans (which Rove did not say) solicit them from business interests. One particularly damaging ad run by the Hooper campaign was a fictionalized scene featuring a lawyer receiving an unwanted telephone solicitation from an unseen Chief Justice Hornsby, before whom, viewers were given to understand, the lawyer had a case pending. The ad, and the unseemly practices on which it was based, drew national attention from Tom Brokaw and NBC's Nightly News.

The attacks began to have the desired effect. Judicial races that no one had expected to be competitive suddenly narrowed, and media attention-especially to Hooper's race after the "dialing for dollars" ad-became widespread. Then Rove turned up the heat. "There was a whole barrage of negative attacks that came in the last two weeks of our campaign," says Joe Perkins, who managed Hornsby's campaign along with those of the other Democrats Rove was working against. "In our polling I sensed a movement and warned our clients."

Newspaper coverage on November 9, the morning after the election, focused on the Republican Fob James's upset of the Democratic Governor Jim Folsom. But another drama was rapidly unfolding. In the race for chief justice, which had been neck and neck the evening before, Hooper awoke to discover himself trailing by 698 votes. Throughout the day ballots trickled in from remote corners of the state, until at last an unofficial tally showed that Rove's client had lost-by 304 votes. Hornsby's campaign declared victory.

Rove had other plans, and immediately moved for a recount. "Karl called the next morning," says a former Rove staffer. "He said, 'We came real close. You guys did a great job. But now we really need to rally around Perry Hooper. We've got a real good shot at this, but we need to win over the people of Alabama.'" Rove explained how this was to be done. "Our role was to try to keep people motivated about Perry Hooper's election," the staffer continued, "and then to undermine the other side's support by casting them as liars, cheaters, stealers, immoral-all of that." (Rove did not respond to requests for an interview for this article.)

The campaign quickly obtained a restraining order to preserve the ballots. Then the tactical battle began. Rather than focus on a handful of Republican counties that might yield extra votes, Rove dispatched campaign staffers and hired investigators to every county to observe the counting and turn up evidence of fraud. In one county a probate judge was discovered to have erroneously excluded 100 votes for Hooper. Voting machines in two others had failed to count all the returns. Mindful of public opinion, according to staffers, the campaign spread tales of poll watchers threatened with arrest; probate judges locking themselves in their offices and refusing to admit campaign workers; votes being cast in absentia for comatose nursing-home patients; and Democrats caught in a cemetery writing down the names of the dead in order to put them on absentee ballots.

As the recount progressed, the margin continued to narrow. Three days after the election Hooper held a press conference to drive home the idea that the election was being stolen. He declared, "We have endured lies in this campaign, but I'll be damned if I will accept outright thievery." The recount stretched on, and Hooper's campaign continued to chip away at Hornsby's lead. By November 21 one tally had it at nine votes.

The race came down to a dispute over absentee ballots. Hornsby's campaign fought to include approximately 2,000 late-arriving ballots that had been excluded because they weren't notarized or witnessed, as required by law. Also mindful of public relations, the Hornsby campaign brought forward a man who claimed that the absentee ballot of his son, overseas in the military, was in danger of being disallowed. The matter wound up in court. "The last marching order we had from Karl," says a former employee, "was 'Make sure you continue to talk this up. The only way we're going to be successful is if the Alabama public continues to care about it.'"

Initially, things looked grim for Hooper. A circuit-court judge ruled that the absentee ballots should be counted, reasoning that voters' intent was the issue, and that by merely signing them, those who had cast them had "substantially complied" with the law. Hooper's lawyers appealed to a federal court. By Thanksgiving his campaign believed he was ahead-but also believed that the disputed absentee ballots, from heavily Democratic counties, would cost him the election. The campaign went so far as to sue every probate judge, circuit clerk, and sheriff in the state, alleging discrimination. Hooper continued to hold rallies throughout it all. On his behalf the business community bought ads in newspapers across the state that said, "They steal elections they don't like." Public opinion began tilting toward him.

The recount stretched into the following year. On Inauguration Day both candidates appeared for the ceremonies. By March the all-Democratic Alabama Supreme Court had ordered that the absentee ballots be counted. By April the matter was before the Eleventh Federal Circuit Court. The byzantine legal maneuvering continued for months. In mid-October a federal appeals-court judge finally ruled that the ballots could not be counted, and ordered the secretary of state to certify Hooper as the winner-only to have Hornsby's legal team appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily stayed the case. By now the recount had dragged on for almost a year.

When I went to visit Hooper, not long ago, we sat in the parlor of his Montgomery home as he described the denouement of Karl Rove's closest race. "On the afternoon of October the nineteenth," Hooper recalled, "I was in the back yard planting five hundred pink sweet Williams in my wife's garden, and she hollered out the back door, 'Your secretary just called-the Supreme Court just made a ruling that you're the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court!'" In the final tally he had prevailed by just 262 votes. Hooper smiled broadly and handed me a large photo of his swearing-in ceremony the next day. "That Karl Rove was a very impressive fellow," he said.

In the decade since, the recount and the court battle have faded into obscurity, save for one brief period, late in 2000, when they suddenly became relevant again. Almost as if to remind Al Gore's campaign of Rove's skill when faced with a recount, the case was revived in a flurry of legal briefs in the Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore-including one filed by the State of Alabama on behalf of George W. Bush.

This summer, with the presidential race looking as if it would be every bit as close as the one in 2000, I spent several months examining the narrowest races in Karl Rove's career to better understand the tendencies and tactics of the man who will arguably have more influence than anyone else over how this election unfolds. Rove has already generated a remarkable body of literature, including several notable books and numerous magazine and newspaper articles. I spoke to many of Rove's former candidates and their opponents; to his past and present colleagues and the people who faced off against them; and to political insiders and journalists-primarily in Texas and Alabama, where Rove has done the majority of his campaign work. I learned much about Rove that hasn't made it into the public sphere.

One of the striking things about his record is how few close races Rove has been involved with-primarily because he usually wins in a walk. In the relatively rare instances when he is in a tight race, he tends to win that, too. Although Rove first rose to political prominence as a specialist in direct-mail fundraising (and worked on hundreds of races in that capacity), mail is only one facet of a campaign, and rarely the deciding factor. So I focused on races in which Rove was the primary strategist, and therefore in a position at least roughly analogous to the one he holds in this presidential race. The last strategist before Rove to win a Republican presidential election was his former colleague Lee Atwater, who by the time of the 1988 campaign had a career record of 28-4. To my knowledge, no one has calculated such a figure for Rove. As far as I can determine, in races he has run for statewide or national office or Congress, starting in 1986, Rove's career record is a truly impressive 34-7.

The mythologizing portrayals of a "boy genius" that characterized so much media coverage of Rove after 2000, and especially after the Republicans' triumphant sweep in the midterm elections, struck me as sorely out of date when I began this project. The Bush Administration was suffering through the worst of the fallout from the Abu Ghraib scandal, and the President's approval ratings were plummeting. Clearly, there are many differences between the circumstances in which Rove has been victorious in the past and those he faces now. But that is no reason to discount his record. By any standard he is an extremely talented political strategist whose skill at understanding how to run campaigns and motivate voters would be impressive even if he used no extreme tactics. But he does use them. Anyone who takes an honest look at his history will come away awed by Rove's power, when challenged, to draw on an animal ferocity that far exceeds the chest-thumping bravado common to professional political operatives. Having studied what happens when Karl Rove is cornered, I came away with two overriding impressions. One was a new appreciation for his mastery of campaigning. The other was astonishment at the degree to which, despite all that's been written about him, Rove's fiercest tendencies have been elided in national media coverage.

How Rove has conducted himself while winning campaigns is a subject of no small controversy in political circles. It is frequently said of him, in hushed tones when political folks are doing the talking, that he leaves a trail of damage in his wake-a reference to the substantial number of people who have been hurt, politically and personally, through their encounters with him. Rove's reputation for winning is eclipsed only by his reputation for ruthlessness, and examples abound of his apparent willingness to cross moral and ethical lines.

In the opening pages of Bush's Brain, Wayne Slater describes an encounter with Rove while covering the 2000 campaign for the Dallas Morning News. Slater had written an article for that day's paper detailing Rove's history of dirty tricks, including a 1973 conference he had organized for young Republicans on how to orchestrate them. Rove was furious. "You're trying to ruin me!" Slater recalls him shouting. The anecdote points up one of the paradoxes of Rove's career. Articles like Slater's are surprisingly few, yet as I interviewed people who knew Rove, they brought up examples of unscrupulous tactics-some of them breathtaking-as a matter of course.

A typical instance occurred in the hard-fought 1996 race for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court between Rove's client, Harold See, then a University of Alabama law professor, and the Democratic incumbent, Kenneth Ingram. According to someone who worked for him, Rove, dissatisfied with the campaign's progress, had flyers printed up-absent any trace of who was behind them-viciously attacking See and his family. "We were trying to craft a message to reach some of the blue-collar, lower-middle-class people," the staffer says. "You'd roll it up, put a rubber band around it, and paperboy it at houses late at night. I was told, 'Do not hand it to anybody, do not tell anybody who you're with, and if you can, borrow a car that doesn't have your tags.' So I borrowed a buddy's car [and drove] down the middle of the street … I had Hefty bags stuffed full of these rolled-up pamphlets, and I'd cruise the designated neighborhoods, throwing these things out with both hands and literally driving with my knees." The ploy left Rove's opponent at a loss. Ingram's staff realized that it would be fruitless to try to persuade the public that the See campaign was attacking its own candidate in order "to create a backlash against the Democrat," as Joe Perkins, who worked for Ingram, put it to me. Presumably the public would believe that Democrats were spreading terrible rumors about See and his family. "They just beat you down to your knees," Ingram said of being on the receiving end of Rove's attacks. See won the race.

Some of Rove's darker tactics cut even closer to the bone. One constant throughout his career is the prevalence of whisper campaigns against opponents. The 2000 primary campaign, for example, featured a widely disseminated rumor that John McCain, tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, had betrayed his country under interrogation and been rendered mentally unfit for office. More often a Rove campaign questions an opponent's sexual orientation. Bush's 1994 race against Ann Richards featured a rumor that she was a lesbian, along with a rare instance of such a tactic's making it into the public record-when a regional chairman of the Bush campaign allowed himself, perhaps inadvertently, to be quoted criticizing Richards for "appointing avowed homosexual activists" to state jobs.

Another example of Rove's methods involves a former ally of Rove's from Texas, John Weaver, who, coincidentally, managed McCain's bid in 2000. Many Republican operatives in Texas tell the story of another close race of sorts: a competition in the 1980s to become the dominant Republican consultant in Texas. In 1986 Weaver and Rove both worked on Bill Clements's successful campaign for governor, after which Weaver was named executive director of the state Republican Party. Both were emerging as leading consultants, but Weaver's star seemed to be rising faster. The details vary slightly according to which insider tells the story, but the main point is always the same: after Weaver went into business for himself and lured away one of Rove's top employees, Rove spread a rumor that Weaver had made a pass at a young man at a state Republican function. Weaver won't reply to the smear, but those close to him told me of their outrage at the nearly two-decades-old lie. Weaver was first made unwelcome in some Texas Republican circles, and eventually, following McCain's 2000 campaign, he left the Republican Party altogether. He has continued an active and successful career as a political consultant-in Texas and Alabama, among other states-and is currently working for McCain as a Democrat.

But no other example of Rove's extreme tactics that I encountered quite compares to what occurred during another 1994 judicial campaign in Alabama. In that year Harold See first ran for the supreme court, becoming the rare Rove client to lose a close race. His opponent, Mark Kennedy, an incumbent Democratic justice and, as George Wallace's son-in-law, a member in good standing of Alabama's first family of politics, was no stranger to hardball politics. "The Wallace family history and what they all went through, that's pretty rough politics," says Joe Perkins, who managed Kennedy's campaign. "But it was a whole new dimension with Rove."

This August, I had lunch with Kennedy near his office in Montgomery. I had hoped to discuss how it was that he had beaten one of the savviest political strategists in modern history, and I expected to hear more of the raucous campaign tales that are a staple of Alabama politics. Neither Kennedy nor our meeting was anything like what I had anticipated. A small man, impeccably dressed and well-mannered, Kennedy appeared to derive little satisfaction from having beaten Rove. In fact, he seemed shaken, even ten years later. He quietly explained how Rove's arrival had poisoned the judicial climate by putting politics above matters of law and justice-"collateral damage," he called it, from the win-at-all-costs attitude that now prevails in judicial races.

He talked about the viciousness of the "slash-and-burn" campaign, and how Rove appealed to the worst elements of human nature. "People vote in Alabama for two reasons," Kennedy told me. "Anger and fear. It's a state that votes against somebody rather than for them. Rove understood how to put his finger right on the trigger point." Kennedy seemed most bothered by the personal nature of the attacks, which, in addition to the usual anti-trial-lawyer litany, had included charges that he was mingling campaign funds with those of a nonprofit children's foundation he was involved with. In the end he eked out a victory by less than one percentage point.

Kennedy leaned forward and said, "After the race my wife, Peggy, was at the supermarket checkout line. She picked up a copy of Reader's Digest and nearly collapsed on her watermelon. She called me and said, 'Sit down. You're not going to believe this.'" Her husband was featured in an article on "America's worst judges." Kennedy attributed this to Rove's attacks.

When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children. In the early 1980s he had helped to start the Children's Trust Fund of Alabama, and he later established the Corporate Foundation for Children, a private, nonprofit organization. At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove's signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception.

Some of Kennedy's campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children. "We were trying to counter the positives from that ad," a former Rove staffer told me, explaining that some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile. "It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to disseminate whisper-campaign information," the staffer went on. "That was a major device we used for the transmission of this stuff. The students at the law school are from all over the state, and that's one of the ways that Karl got the information out-he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns and it would get out." This would create the impression that the lie was in fact common knowledge across the state. "What Rove does," says Joe Perkins, "is try to make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship. Mark is not your typical Alabama macho, beer-drinkin', tobacco-chewin', pickup-drivin' kind of guy. He is a small, well-groomed, well-educated family man, and what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take."

Earlier this year the lone Democrat on the Alabama Supreme Court announced his retirement. There's an excellent chance that on Election Day the court will at last become entirely Republican.

Almost from the beginning Karl Rove has signaled that he expects a close 2004 election, and he has run George W. Bush's re-election effort accordingly. While John Kerry's campaign has made an extraordinary effort to gather moderate voters to his liberal base by stressing its candidate's decorated war record and centrist views, Rove-in contrast to 2000's invitingly gauzy message of "compassionate conservatism"-has returned to his traditional strength: motivating the base of conservative voters.

Bush's campaign has naturally focused on the battleground states, but Rove's strategy can be decoded by looking at the targets of emphasis within those states. They are predominantly solid Republican areas such as Pensacola, Florida, and Cincinnati, Ohio. Rove's gambit is to improve Bush's margins in places where the President fared well in the 2000 election, just enough-a few points higher among Catholics, evangelicals, Hispanics-to prevail once more. To achieve this he is following the lessons of tight races past, buying television time in solidly red Fargo, North Dakota, because the airwaves also reach the neighboring swing state of Minnesota, and in solidly blue Burlington, Vermont, so as to draw a few more voters to Bush in the battle for New Hampshire, next door.

Rather than soften Bush's appeal to reach moderates, Rove, as he has done throughout his career, is attempting to control the debate by expertly spotlighting issues sure to inspire his core constituency: the drive for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, the pronouncements about love of country, the unremitting attack against anything in an opponent that seems impregnable. All these tactics stand out in Rove's most memorable past victories.

Privately, Rove has been challenged and even denounced for his approach. A common refrain I heard from Republican consultants a few months ago was that his approach is foolish, because for the sake of an ideologically intense campaign, Rove is ceding to the Democrats the moderates Kerry is pursuing. And, these consultants fear, it puts Bush in jeopardy of seeing outside events decide the race.

But an interesting thing happened as I worked on this piece. Early in the summer, as Bush was struggling, even Rove's allies professed to doubt his ability to control the dynamics of the race in view of an unrelenting stream of bad news from Iraq. Several insisted that he was in over his head-with an emphasis that seemed to go deeper than mere professional envy. Yet by August, when attacks by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were dominating the front pages, such comments had become rarer. Then they died away entirely.

If this year stays true to past form, the campaign will get nastier in the closing weeks, and without anyone's quite registering it, Rove will be right back in his element. He seems to understand-indeed, to count on-the media's unwillingness or inability, whether from squeamishness, laziness, or professional caution, ever to give a full estimate of him or his work. It is ultimately not just Rove's skill but his character that allows him to perform on an entirely different plane. Along with remarkable strategic skills, he has both an understanding of the media's unstated self-limitations and a willingness to fight in territory where conscience forbids most others.

Rove isn't bracing for a close race. He's depending on it.

Joshua Green is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly.

[Oct 24, 2004] LA Times/ Karl Rove America's Mullah This election is about Rovism, and the outcome threatens to transform the U.S. into an ironfisted theocracy. By Neal Gabler, Neal Gabler, a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg, is author of "Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality."

Even now, after Sen. John F. Kerry handily won his three debates with President Bush and after most polls show a dead heat, his supporters seem downbeat. Why? They believe that Karl Rove, Bush's top political operative, cannot be beaten. Rove the Impaler will do whatever it takes - anything - to make certain that Bush wins. This isn't just typical Democratic pessimism. It has been the master narrative of the 2004 presidential campaign in the mainstream media. Attacks on Kerry come and go - flip-flopper, Swift boats, Massachusetts liberal - but one constant remains, Rove, and everyone takes it for granted that he knows how to game the system.

Rove, however, is more than a political sharpie with a bulging bag of dirty tricks. His campaign shenanigans - past and future - go to the heart of what this election is about.

Democrats will tell you it is a referendum on Bush's incompetence or on his extremist right-wing agenda. Republicans will tell you it's about conservatism versus liberalism or who can better protect us from terrorists. They are both wrong. This election is about Rovism - the insinuation of Rove's electoral tactics into the conduct of the presidency and the fabric of the government. It's not an overstatement to say that on Nov. 2, the fate of traditional American democracy will hang in the balance.

Rovism is not simply a function of Rove the political conniver sitting in the counsels of power and making decisions, though he does. No recent presidency has put policy in the service of politics as has Bush's. Because tactics can change institutions, Rovism is much more. It is a philosophy and practice of governing that pervades the administration and even extends to the Republican-controlled Congress. As Robert Berdahl, chancellor of UC Berkeley, has said of Bush's foreign policy, a subset of Rovism, it constitutes a fundamental change in "the fabric of constitutional government as we have known it in this country."

Rovism begins, as one might suspect from the most merciless of political consiglieres, with Machiavelli's rule of force: "A prince is respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy." No administration since Warren Harding's has rewarded its friends so lavishly, and none has been as willing to bully anyone who strays from its message.

There is no dissent in the Rove White House without reprisal.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki was retired after he disagreed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's transformation of the Army and then testified that invading Iraq would require a U.S. deployment of 200,000 soldiers.

Chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster was threatened with termination if he revealed before the vote that the administration had seriously misrepresented the cost of its proposed prescription drug plan to get it through Congress.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was peremptorily fired for questioning the wisdom of the administration's tax cuts, and former U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer III felt compelled to recant his statement that there were insufficient troops in Iraq.

Even accounting for the strong-arm tactics of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, this isn't government as we have known it. This is the Sopranos in the White House: "Cross us and you're road kill."

Naturally, the administration's treatment of the opposition is worse. Rove's mentor, political advisor Lee Atwater, has been quoted as saying: "What you do is rip the bark off liberals." That's how Bush has governed. There is a feeling, perhaps best expressed by Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller's keynote address at the Republican convention, that anyone who has the temerity to question the president is undermining the country. At times, Miller came close to calling Democrats traitors for putting up a presidential candidate.

This may be standard campaign rhetoric. But it's one thing to excoriate your opponents in a campaign, and quite another to continue berating them after the votes are counted.

Rovism regards any form of compromise as weakness. Politics isn't a bus we all board together, it's a steamroller.

No recent administration has made less effort to reach across the aisle, and thanks to Rovism, the Republican majority in Congress often operates on a rule of exclusion. Republicans blocked Democrats from participating in the bill-drafting sessions on energy, prescription drugs and intelligence reform in the House. As Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) told the New Yorker, "They don't consult with the nations of the world, and they don't consult with Congress, especially the Democrats in Congress. They can do it all themselves."

Bush entered office promising to be a "uniter, not a divider." But Rovism is not about uniting. What Rove quickly grasped is that it's easier and more efficacious to exploit the cultural and social divide than to look for common ground. No recent administration has as eagerly played wedge issues - gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, faith-based initiatives - to keep the nation roiling, in the pure Rovian belief that the president's conservative supporters will always be angrier and more energized than his opponents. Division, then, is not a side effect of policy; in Rovism, it is the purpose of policy.

The lack of political compromise has its correlate in the administration's stubborn insistence that it doesn't have to compromise with facts. All politicians operate within an Orwellian nimbus where words don't mean what they normally mean, but Rovism posits that there is no objective, verifiable reality at all. Reality is what you say it is, which explains why Bush can claim that postwar Iraq is going swimmingly or that a so-so economy is soaring. As one administration official told reporter Ron Suskind, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality…. We're history's actors."

When neither dissent nor facts are recognized as constraining forces, one is infallible, which is the sum and foundation of Rovism. Cleverly invoking the power of faith to protect itself from accusations of stubbornness and insularity, this administration entertains no doubt, no adjustment, no negotiation, no competing point of view. As such, it eschews the essence of the American political system: flexibility and compromise.

In Rovism, toughness is the only virtue. The mere appearance of change is intolerable, which is why Bush apparently can't admit ever making a mistake. As Machiavelli put it, the prince must show that "his judgments are irrevocable."

Rovism is certainly not without its appeal. As political theorist Sheldon Wolin once characterized Machiavellian government, it promises the "economy of politics." Americans love toughness. They love swagger. In a world of complexity and uncertainty, especially after Sept. 11, they love the idea of a man who doesn't need anyone else. They even love the sense of mission, regardless of its wisdom.

These values run deep in the American soul, and Rovism consciously taps them. But they are not democratic. Unwavering discipline, demonization of foes, disdain for reality and a personal sense of infallibility based on faith are the stuff of a theocracy - the president as pope or mullah and policy as religious warfare.

Boiled down, Rovism is government by jihadis in the grip of unshakable self-righteousness - ironically the force the administration says it is fighting. It imposes rather than proposes.

Rovism surreptitiously and profoundly changes our form of government, a government that has been, since its founding by children of the Enlightenment, open, accommodating, moderate and generally reasonable.

All administrations try to work the system to their advantage, and some, like Nixon's, attempt to circumvent the system altogether. Rove and Bush neither use nor circumvent, which would require keeping the system intact. They instead are reconfiguring the system in extra-constitutional, theocratic terms.

The idea of the United States as an ironfisted theocracy is terrifying, and it should give everyone pause. This time, it's not about policy. This time, for the first time, it's about the nature of American government.

We all have reason to be very, very afraid.

[Oct. 16, 2004] The Washington Post Rove trims sails but steers for victory. By Mike Allen. Bush's fate may hinge on top advisor's change in campaign strategy

WASHINGTON - A few months before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Karl Rove held clinics for White House officials in which he laid out what amounted to his early game plan for reelecting President Bush in 2004: improving the party's performance among blacks, Hispanics, Catholics, union households and "wired workers" of the technology world.

Bush won about 8 percent of the African American vote in 2000, and Rove insisted that number needed to be pushed higher.

His Office of Strategic Initiatives, a creation that is known around the West Wing as "Strategery," handed out colorful laminated cards so that aides could remember their goals.

Those PowerPoint presentations in the infancy of Bush's presidency were an early indication that, although his 2000 campaign had many architects, Rove alone among staffers would bear ultimate credit or blame for the outcome of the 2004 election.

Back then, Rove did not strive simply to produce a convincing victory but to create a permanent Republican majority.

Now, a little more than two weeks before the election, the Bush-Cheney campaign would be happy to eke out the barest, skin-of-the-teeth GOP majority, and aims to cobble it together by turning out every last evangelical Christian, gun owner, rancher and home schooler - reliable Republicans all. It looks like the opposite of Rove's original dream.

At this point, Bush would have to defy history to win reelection, since polls show the incumbent in a dead-even race and that a majority of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Facing those bleak facts, well-known Republicans are quietly wondering whether Rove's luck has finally run out. So far, most believe he will wind up making a winner of a troublesome hand that he largely dealt himself.

The political guru

Rove had to trim his hopes for realigning party politics because of the way the president handled Iraq, and because Bush made little effort on issues, such as the environment, that might have attracted more traditionally Democratic constituencies. Instead, Bush catered to conservatives on everything from support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage to constant talk about tax cuts. The main critique of the Rove strategy, from inside and outside his party, is that the White House governed in a divisive way, when Bush could have used his popularity following the terrorist attacks to reach out to swing voters and even to African Americans.

Republicans would not discuss the is t they had an opportunity no president gets."

Still, if Rove is the man whom many hold accountable for Bush's current predicament, he is also the one who they most believe has the skill to get him out. Rove, who holds the deceptively bland title of senior adviser to the president, has the broadest reach and most power of any official in the West Wing. But he also oversees every detail of the ostensibly separate, $259 million Bush-Cheney campaign, from staffing the campaign with his young loyalists rather than veteran Republicans, to monitoring small-newspaper clippings around the country.

Ralph Reed, a Bush-Cheney campaign official who has worked on seven presidential campaigns, said Rove has a unique ability to "see the importance of emerging constituencies in the same way that, say, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in the rise of the union vote and the transformation of the minority vote."

"He understands that politics is shaped by broad demographic forces, such as the aging of a population, immigration, rising ethnic groups, unionization, religious belief," Reed said of Rove.

Mystery man

Rove, a master of political history and minutiae, has cultivated an aura of mystery, rarely giving on-the-record interviews and doing little to undermine the myth that he is responsible for everything that occurs in the executive branch. In the view of some supporters, the perception that he is "Bush's Brain," as a 2003 biography of him was titled, has undermined the president.

In a White House where insularity is a trademark, Rove is a voracious e-mailer, constantly in touch with Republican and conservative establishments nationwide. He has been known to use his BlackBerry wireless device in bed and while driving. He had one of the earliest experimental e-mail programs and is fond of technological innovations that help slice and dice information about individual potential voters. In 2000, he was excited about a database of snowmobile registrants. This year, he took a broader look at the Democrats' idea of NASCAR dads and ordered a systematic focus on "NASCAR moms."

Sen. John F. Kerry's Web site has copied many innovations from the Bush-Cheney site, including a feature that allows users to effortlessly e-mail pages to five friends.

Rove maintains loyalty partly by giving it and partly through fear - several of his friends did not want to be quoted by name because they said if Rove saw their thoughts in the newspaper, they were not likely to be heard from again.

Despite Rove's reputation as master of politics' darker side, the vision he outlined in 2001 had an element of high-mindedness: It depended on outreach to demographic groups the party had neglected. Bush's first address to a joint session of Congress said government should be "active" and "engaged," while still limited and not overbearing.

But it was also hardball: If Rove succeeded, he would have chipped away at enough traditional Democratic constituencies that his opponents would not be able to assemble a winning coalition.

Emphasizing the base

On May 15, 2003, when Rove and others gave Bush a formal briefing about preparations for his campaign, the strategy looked very different than it did on the laminated cards. By then, the broad strokes of Bush's likely legacy were already clear: He was given credit for a stalwart response to the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, had turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit, had gone on the offensive against terrorism and had chosen to invade Iraq. A month earlier, Saddam Hussein's government had fallen. Two weeks before, Bush had declared the end of major combat on an aircraft carrier. It was not yet clear that the United States might lose the peace in Iraq.

Rove's strategy, as described by officials who were briefed at the time, had two central pillars. One was raising $170 million or more for a campaign budget that he thought - incorrectly it turns out - would swamp the fundraising ability of the opposition. The other was to maximize the yield from Bush's "base," or core supporters, including fiscal and social conservatives, rural residents and small business owners. Rove would do this both by energizing these voters to turn out and using creative ways to get them to tap into their own networks to expand the base. Rove also put a priority on locking in suburban and exurban voters.

What might be called the Rove Doctrine of emphasizing the base grew partly out of the scarring experience of 2000. According to the calculations of Bush consultants, 4 million evangelical Christians stayed home, perhaps in part because of the final-weekend revelation that Bush had once been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

The officials said the base theory also derives from the calculation that there were more potential base voters available to Bush than there were swing voters, who could be expected to go at least two-thirds to the challenger.

Rove said he does not agree with describing the race as a base election. He said he views the nation as divided 50 percent for Bush, 47 percent for Kerry and 3 percent undecided, and said it is therefore safe to assume that Bush has already taken many traditional swing voters - including, African Americans, Latinos and women - into his base.

Bush's aides insist that they also have sought independent voters through measures that were opposed by some sections of the base, including a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and a proposal to provide temporary legal status for undocumented workers. Reed describes the mission as an effort "to appeal to our core supporters without turning off swing voters."

Too long on the attack?

But from the president's rhetoric to his choice of audiences to the efforts of the White House staff, the Rove-Bush focus on the base has been unmistakable, and - along with Iraq - will be a big part of the story of his triumph or loss. Democrats contend, and some Republicans fear, that Rove was attentive to the base for far too long, boxing Bush into a corner where he seems always on the attack in a way that may turn off swing voters.

A friend of Rove, who refused to be named, noted that because of the continuing bloodshed in Iraq, Rove had to contend with being "largely on defense on foreign policy."

"Rove's job is to be practical," the friend said. "The practical imperative is to reelect the president, and you do that by figuring out and implementing a strategy that's going to get you the most votes. You have to throw some of the broad goals out the window because you don't have time for them and you can't indulge them."

This friend said that if Bush is reelected, Rove "will try to develop strategies and employ tactics that reach out and appeal to demographic groups and bring them into the Republican Party."

By the accounts of some White House insiders, Rove did not push Bush to invade Iraq, although he said before the midterm elections of 2002 that Republicans should not be afraid to use the war on terrorism as their calling card, because voters instinctively trusted Democrats less on national-security issues.

"Rove wasn't going to let the liberal Democrats and their co-conspirators in the media take the war on terror away," the Rove friend said. "This is as legitimate an issue as the Cold War. When everybody was saying, 'Oh, you can't exploit it politically, you can't exploit it politically,' Karl went and ran those first ads that exploited it politically. And, by the way, those ads fundamentally began the campaign and created a basis for Bush to win in spite of what was going on in Iraq."

Divisiveness over Iraq is largely responsible for the polarized electorate, but another major factor was the president's Rove-engineered posture as a ferocious partisan in the midterms, when he campaigned against Democratic senators, producing historic gains for the party in power but leaving the opposition little incentive to cooperate with him on legislation that might help him make good on his pre-presidency claim to being a uniter, not a divider.

"Karl saw it as an opportunity to make the Senate more Bush-friendly, but the downside was it made it more polarized," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in a telephone interview.

In Minnesota in mid-September, with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth tearing into Kerry and Democrats pushing new questions about Bush's National Guard service in an effort to temper his post-convention bounce, Rove appeared to recognize how far he was from his years-old ideal. "We're winning," he said. "But it's going to be an ugly 47 days."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6262475/

John Dilulio letter

On October 24, John DiIulio, a former high-level official in the Bush administration, sent the letter below to Esquire Washington correspondent Ron Suskind. The letter was a key source of Suskind's story about Karl Rove, politics and policymaking in the Bush administration, "Why Are These Men Laughing," which appears in the January 2003 issue of Esquire. On Monday, December 3, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said that the charges contained in the story were "groundless and baseless."

After initially standing by his assertions, DiIulio himself later issued an "apology." Esquire stands strongly behind Suskind and his important story.


CONFIDENTIAL
To: Ron Suskind
From: John DiIulio
Subject: Your next essay on the Bush administration
Date: October 24, 2002

Dear Ron:

For/On the Record

My perspective on the president and the administration reflects both my experiences at the White House and my views as a political scientist and policy scholar. Regarding the former, I spent a couple one-on-one hours with then-Governor Bush during a visit he made to Philadelphia a few months before the Republican Convention there. I helped with certain campaign speeches and with certain speeches once he became president. I spent time with the president in briefings, in meetings with groups, and on certain trips. I was there in the White House during the first 180 days. I was an Assistant to the President, and attended many, though by no means all, senior staff meetings. I was not at all a close "insider" but I was very much on the inside. I observed and heard a great deal that concerned policy issues and political matters well outside my own issue sets. Regarding the latter, I have studied American government and public policy and administration for over twenty years. I have worked and run research programs at both liberal and conservative think tanks, developed community programs through national non-profit groups, and so forth.

In my view, President Bush is a highly admirable person of enormous personal decency. He is a godly man and a moral leader. He is much, much smarter than some people-including some of his own supporters and advisers-seem to suppose. He inspires personal trust, loyalty, and confidence in those around him. In many ways, he is all heart. Clinton talked "I feel your pain." But as Bush showed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he truly does feel deeply for others and loves this country with a passion.

The little things speak legions. Notice how he decided to let the detainees come home from China and did not jump all over them for media purposes. I could cite a dozen such examples of his dignity and personal goodness. Or I recall how, in Philly, following a 3-hour block party on July 4, 2001, following hours among the children, youth, and families of prisoners, we were running late for the next event. He stopped, however, to take a picture with a couple of men who were cooking ribs all day. "C'mon," he said, "those guys have been doing hard work all day there." It's my favorite-and in some ways, my most telling-picture of who he is as a man and a leader who pays attention to the little things that convey respect and decency toward others.

But the contrast with Clinton is two-sided. As Joe Klein has so strongly captured him, Clinton was "the natural," a leader with a genuine interest in the policy process who encouraged information-rich decision-making. Clinton was the policy-wonk-in-chief. The Clinton administration drowned in policy intellectuals and teemed with knowledgeable people interested in making government work. Every domestic issue drew multiple policy analyses that certainly weighted politics, media messages, legislative strategy, et cetera, but also strongly weighted policy-relevant information, stimulated substantive policy debate, and put a premium on policy knowledge. That is simply not Bush's style. It fits not at all with his personal cum presidential character. The Bush West Wing is very nearly at the other end of this Clinton policy-making continuum.

Besides the tax cut, which was cut-and-dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy. There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism. There is still two years, maybe six, for them to do more and better on domestic policy, and, specifically, on the compassion agenda. And, needless to say, 9/11, and now the global war on terror and the new homeland and national security plans, must be weighed in the balance.

But, as I think Andy Card himself told you in so many words, even allowing for those huge contextual realities, they could stand to find ways of inserting more serious policy fiber into the West Wing diet, and engage much less in on-the-fly policy-making by speech-making. They are almost to an individual nice people, and there are among them several extremely gifted persons who do indeed know-and care-a great deal about actual policy-making, administrative reform, and so forth. But they have been, for whatever reasons, organized in ways that make it hard for policy-minded staff, including colleagues (even secretaries) of cabinet agencies, to get much West Wing traction, or even get a non-trivial hearing.

In this regard, at the six-month senior staff retreat on July 9, 2001, an explicit discussion ensued concerning how to emulate more strongly the Clinton White House's press, communications, and rapid-response media relations-how better to wage, if you will, the permanent campaign that so defines the modern presidency regardless of who or which party occupies the Oval Office. I listened and was amazed. It wasn't more press, communications, media, legislative strategizing, and such that they needed. Maybe the Clinton people did that better, though, surely, they were less disciplined about it and leaked more to the media and so on. No, what they needed, I thought then and still do now, was more policy-relevant information, discussion, and deliberation.

In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis, and they were even more overworked than the stereotypical, non-stop, 20-hour-a-day White House staff. Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but, on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking-discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue.

Likewise, every administration at some point comes to think of the White House as its own private tree house, to define itself as "us" versus "them" on Capitol Hill, or in the media, or what have you, and, before 100 days are out, to vest ever more organizational and operational authority with the White House's political, press, and communications people, both senior and junior. I think, however, that the Bush administration-maybe because they were coming off Florida and the election controversy, maybe because they were so unusually tight-knit and "Texas," maybe because the chief of staff, Andy Card, was more a pure staff process than a staff leader or policy person, or maybe for other reasons I can't recognize-was far more inclined in that direction, and became progressively more so as the months pre-9/11 wore on.

This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis-staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible. These folks have their predecessors in previous administrations (left and right, Democrat and Republican), but, in the Bush administration, they were particularly unfettered.

I could cite a half-dozen examples, but, on the so-called faith bill, they basically rejected any idea that the president's best political interests-not to mention the best policy for the country-could be served by letting centrist Senate Democrats in on the issue, starting with a bipartisan effort to review the implementation of the kindred law (called "charitable choice") signed in 1996 by Clinton. For a fact, had they done that, six months later they would have had a strongly bipartisan copycat bill to extend that law. But, over-generalizing the lesson from the politics of the tax cut bill, they winked at the most far-right House Republicans who, in turn, drafted a so-called faith bill (H.R. 7, the Community Solutions Act) that (or so they thought) satisfied certain fundamentalist leaders and beltway libertarians but bore few marks of "compassionate conservatism" and was, as anybody could tell, an absolute political non-starter. It could pass the House only on a virtual party-line vote, and it could never pass the Senate, even before Jeffords switched.

Not only that, but it reflected neither the president's own previous rhetoric on the idea, nor any of the actual empirical evidence that recommended policies promoting greater public/private partnerships involving community-serving religious organizations. I said so, wrote memos, and so on for the first six weeks. But, hey, what's that fat, out-of-the-loop professor guy know; besides, he says he'll be gone in six months. As one senior staff member chided me at a meeting at which many junior staff were present and all ears, "John, get a faith bill, any faith bill." Like college students who fall for the colorful, opinionated, but intellectually third-rate professor, you could see these 20- and 30-something junior White House staff falling for the Mayberry Machiavellis. It was all very disheartening to this old, Madison-minded American government professor.

Madison aside, even Machiavelli might have a beef. The West Wing staff actually believed that they could pass the flawed bill, get it through conference, and get it to the president's desk to sign by the summer. Instead, the president got a political black eye when they could easily have handed him a big bipartisan political victory. The best media events were always the bipartisan ones anyway, like the president's visit to the U.S. Mayors Conference in Detroit in June 2001. But my request to have him go there was denied three times on the grounds that it would "play badly" or "give the Democrat mayors a chance to bash him on other issues." Nothing of the sort happened; it was a great success, as was having Philly's black Democratic mayor, John Street, in the gallery next to Mrs. Bush in February 2001 at the president's first Budget Address. But they could not see it, and instead went back to courting conservative religious leaders and groups.

The "faith bill" saga also illustrates the relative lack of substantive concern for policy and administration. I had to beg to get a provision written into the executive orders that would require us to conduct an actual information-gathering effort related to the president's interest in the policy. With the exception of some folks at OMB, nobody cared a fig about the five-agency performance audit, and we got less staff help on it than went into any two PR events or such. Now, of course, the document the effort produced (Unlevel Playing Field) is cited all the time, and frames the administrative reform agenda that-or so the Mayberry Machiavellis had insisted-had no value.

Even more revealing than what happened during the first 180 days is what did not, especially on the compassion agenda beyond the faith bill and focusing on children. Remember "No child left behind"? That was a Bush campaign slogan. I believe it was his heart, too. But translating good impulses into good policy proposals requires more than whatever somebody thinks up in the eleventh hour before a speech is to be delivered, or whatever symbolic politics plan-"communities of character" and such-gets generated by the communications, political strategy, and other political shops.

During the campaign, for instance, the president had mentioned Medicaid explicitly as one program on which Washington might well do more. I co-edited a whole (boring!) Brookings volume on Medicaid; some people inside thought that universal health care for children might be worth exploring, especially since, truth be told, the existing laws take us right up to that policy border. They could easily have gotten in behind some proposals to implement existing Medicaid provisions that benefit low-income children. They could have fashioned policies for the working poor. The list is long. Long, and fairly complicated, especially when-as they stipulated from the start-you want to spend little or no new public money on social welfare, and you have no real process for doing meaningful domestic policy analysis and deliberation. It's easier in that case to forget Medicaid refinements and react to calls for a "PBOR," patients' bill of rights, or whatever else pops up.

Some are inclined to blame the high political-to-policy ratios of this administration on Karl Rove. Some in the press view Karl as some sort of prince of darkness; actually, he is basically a nice and good-humored man. And some staff members, senior and junior, are awed and cowed by Karl's real or perceived powers. They self-censor lots for fear of upsetting him, and, in turn, few of the president's top people routinely tell the president what they really think if they think that Karl will be brought up short in the bargain. Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political advisor post near the Oval Office. The Republican base constituencies, including beltway libertarian policy elites and religious right leaders, trust him to keep Bush "43" from behaving like Bush "41" and moving too far to the center or inching at all center-left. Their shared fiction, supported by zero empirical electoral studies, is that "41" lost in '92 because he lost these right-wing fans. There are not ten House districts in America where either the libertarian litany or the right-wing religious policy creed would draw majority popular approval, and, most studies suggest, Bush "43" could have done better versus Gore had he stayed more centrist, but, anyway, the fiction is enshrined as fact. Little happens on any issue without Karl's okay, and, often, he supplies such policy substance as the administration puts out. Fortunately, he is not just a largely self-taught, hyper-political guy, but also a very well informed guy when it comes to certain domestic issues. (Whether, as some now assert, he even has such sway in national security, homeland security, and foreign affairs, I cannot say.)

Karl was at his political and policy best, I think, in steering the president's stem-cell research decision, as was the president himself, who really took this issue on board with an unusual depth of reading, reflection, and staff deliberation. Personally, I would have favored a position closer to the Catholic Church's on the issue, but this was one instance where the administration really took pains with both politics and policy, invited real substantive knowledge into the process, and so forth. It was almost as if it took the most highly charged political issue of its kind to force them to take policy-relevant knowledge seriously, to have genuine deliberation.

Contrast that, however, with the remarkably slap-dash character of the Office of Homeland Security, with the nine months of arguing that no department was needed, with the sudden, politically-timed reversal in June, and with the fact that not even that issue, the most significant reorganization of the federal government since the creation of the Department of Defense, has received more than talking-points caliber deliberation. This was, in a sense, the administration problem in miniature: Ridge was the decent fellow at the top, but nobody spent the time to understand that an EOP entity without budgetary or statutory authority can't "coordinate" over 100 separate federal units, no matter how personally close to the president its leader is, no matter how morally right they feel the mission is, and no matter how inconvenient the politics of telling certain House Republican leaders we need a big new federal bureaucracy might be.

The good news, however, is that the fundamentals are pretty good-the president's character and heart, the decent, well-meaning people on staff, Karl's wonkish alter-ego, and the fact that, a year after 9/11 and with a White House that can find time enough to raise $140 million for campaigns, it's becoming fair to ask, on domestic policy and compassionate conservatism, "Where's the beef?"

Whether because they will eventually be forced to defend the president's now thin record on domestic policy and virtually empty record on compassionate conservatism, or for other reasons, I believe that the best may well be yet to come from the Bush administration. But, in my view, they will not get there without some significant reforms to the policy-lite inter-personal and organizational dynamics of the place.

Shalom,

John

RELATED LINKS

Excerpts from Ron Suskind's story on Karl Rove

Suskind's story on former White House adviser Karen Hughes

Write a letter to the editor of Esquire


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Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law

History:

Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least


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Last modified: October 18, 2017