Jul 2012 25

by Steven Whitney

[The Fighting Back series began with a simple question: given their minority status for most of the last 80 years, why is the GOP so successful at winning elections? Exploring one answer, the series has first focused on Karl Rove’s free adaptation of Joseph Goebbels doctrines of PropagandaIndoctrination, Intimidation and Revenge, Distraction and Disinformation, and Divide and Conquer. In coming weeks, we’ll seek more answers in a myriad fields and offer solutions aimed at turning the tables on the party that favors corporations and the 1% over the vast majority of Americans.]

Through Fox News and other media outlets, Karl Rove has inculcated a false world view for the past dozen years through indoctrination tactics perfected by Joseph Goebbels, the former Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda for Germany’s Third Reich.

How has he gotten away with it for so long? His resume reveals the answer: by intimidation and revenge – the true standards of “win at any cost” politics.

Certainly, part of the blame falls to those who were cajoled or browbeaten into compliance. As children, we’re taught to stand up to bullies, especially since they are essentially cowards…so it’s disheartening when elected officials fold their values under pressure (and, like the post-1994 Republican Congress, even became bullies themselves). But to be fair, Rove and his henchmen dish out frighteningly more punishment than a bloody nose.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, drug kingpin Pablo Escobar employed a simple tactic that led Forbes magazine to list him as the world’s first narco–billionaire. Escobar would approach someone from whom he wanted something and offer them either silver (plata) or lead (plomo), meaning he would either make them very rich (silver) or riddle their body with bullets (lead). His plata o plomo strategy was copied quite literally by every subsequent cartel…and figuratively by Karl Rove, who adjusted it a notch for the American political arena.

As one White House aide put it: “Karl operates under the rule that if you fuck with us, we’ll fuck you over.”

In 1994, Rove-backed candidate Harold See ran for a Supreme Court seat in Alabama against Democrat Mark Kennedy, who had honorably served as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect and whose commercials included a shot of him holding hands with at-risk children his group had literally saved. Enter Rove, who started a particularly malicious whispering campaign smearing Kennedy as a pedophile. The Atlantic Monthly’s Joshua Green correctly described the incident: “What Rove does is try and make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship.”

That same year, George W. Bush ran for governor of Texas against incumbent Ann Richards, widely admired for the diversity of her administration. Soon, persistent rumors spread across the Lone Star state that Richards was a lesbian, several steps too far diversity-wise for Texans to venture at the time. Journalist Lou Dubose spotted a common Rove tactic: “Identify your opponent’s strength, and attack it so relentlessly that it becomes a liability.”

In 1991, while visiting one of Mother Theresa’s orphanages in Bangladesh, Cindy McCain spotted two sickly infants who, frankly, weren’t going to make it. On the spot, she decided to take them back home for medical treatment that saved both their lives. Two years later, John and Cindy McCain officially adopted one of the girls, Bridget, and arranged for the adoption of the other (Mickey) by the family of McCain aide Wes Gullet. For many, these were heroic acts of kindness and compassion…but to Karl Rove, they served merely as an opportunity to smear someone who stood in his way.

In 2000, Sen. McCain squared off against the Rove-controlled Bush in the Republican Presidential primaries. After McCain’s 18 point victory in New Hampshire, the smart money was on the Senator to win the nomination, especially as he held a 5 point lead heading into South Carolina. Rove cut into that margin with TV attacks implying that McCain’s days as a POW had left him mentally scarred (a real-life Manchurian candidate) and that Cindy was a drug addict. But then, asserted another White House aide, Rove devised the coup de grace – a fiendishly damaging question to ask Southerners via a phony poll: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” Since McCain was barnstorming the state with Bridget, his dark-skinned daughter from Bangladesh, voters in this Old South state quickly began marching to the darkest of Rove’s tunes. Bush won South Carolina by a healthy margin and the race was essentially over.

Following his formula of hammering his opponent’s perceived strength, Rove had taken McCain’s admirable sense of character and turned it into a racist affront. It was a strategy so depraved only Rove could have stooped so low as to implement it – as noted by Meghan McCain: “Karl Rove is a pathetic excuse for a human being.”

Rove’s tactics in these scenarios incorporated the Big Lie, but he could bully with the truth, too – when he needed to.

In 2002, with America already at war in Afghanistan, the Bush administration tried desperately to produce even the flimsiest rationales for invading Iraq. Tipped to an unsubstantiated rumor that Niger had supplied Saddam Hussein with yellowcake uranium, the CIA asked former Ambassador to Iraq and 23 year Foreign Service veteran Joseph Wilson to investigate. After more than a week in Niger interviewing key players and examining technical information (including forged memos), Wilson correctly reported that the rumor was “highly unlikely.” Months went by and he thought the rumor had been discarded…until Bush cited it again in early 2003 as a compelling reason to invade Iraq. Wilson countered by writing an OpEd in the New York Times stating unequivocally that the yellowcake connection was highly suspect.

Almost immediately, Rove leaked to reporters Matt Cooper and Robert Novak that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was in fact a covert CIA agent specializing in WMD. It was the truth, of course, and once her cover was blown, Plame’s career was kaput. Never mind that Plame’s clandestine colleagues across the globe were put in grave danger and America lost its most effective nuclear intelligence operative. Bush got his “revenge” war (Hussein had put out a contract on W.’s father years before) and Rove got his revenge on Wilson, a man who refused to shade the truth for administration purposes. The cost was thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and more than a trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war.

Of course, Rove’s actions were actionably treasonous in this case – the FBI even believed they had him nailed. But for some reason never adequately explained, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald failed to prosecute Rove.

When pop-recording stars the Dixie Chicks publicly voiced their opposition to the Bush 2003 invasion of Iraq on stage, Karl went to work with his “Southern Strategy” friends. Soon, the Dixie Chicks were not only demonized and persona non grata at many venues and media outlets, with concerts cancelled and radio play diminished, they were even accused of treason via the underground rumor mill that Rove had long relied upon.

Rove’s hostile invective was even aimed to discredit whole countries. Just like in our own Revolutionary War, the French were our greatest allies in the War in Afghanistan. But they rightly wanted no part of Iraq; As bad as he was, they argued, Hussein did not attack the U.S. and there was no reliable evidence that he posed “a clear and present danger” to anyone, much less to the Western allies. France did not believe a country had the moral right to go to war just because its President wanted to, which pretty much sums up the Bush Doctrine. But by this time, Rove had convinced Bush he was “a war President,” and needed perpetual war (shades of 1984), so all things French became nearly traitorous (down to the absurd renaming of French Fries to Freedom Fries in the Senate cafeteria), and the build-up to Iraq II continued unabated.

When Senator John Kerry posed a credible threat to Bush’s re-election in 2004, Rove went after Kerry’s most obvious political asset by swiftboating his admirable Vietnam service. From a legitimate war hero, Kerry was turned into something akin to a Timothy McVey serial killer, while Bush, who went AWOL for about a year during the same era, literally strutted around in a flight suit with Commander-in-Chief emblazoned on its breast. Like a cherry atop an ice cream sundae, there was even widespread talk that Kerry somehow “looked French.”

Even the press was not immune to Rove’s intimidation tactics. First there were the wildly illegal wiretaps and surveillance by which the administration tracked “suspect” reporters. If any of the White House press corps still didn’t toe the line, Rove reduced their access to White House personnel in stages until they either came around or had no access at all and were necessarily replaced by their media employer. The message came through loud and clear – play Rove’s game or lose your job.

Rove is not going to change, and neither will his modus operandi. His inestimably low character and slimy strategies have been too successful (in the worst sense of the word) to alter.

But we can change. Politicians and journalists must be made of sterner stuff than we have seen in the last decade. We must start not only standing up to his intimidation tactics, but begin an all-out offensive against him – harsh, unyielding, and repeated endlessly, shouted from every media outlet and whispered in every dark corner of every American community. We must bloodlessly attack every particle of his loathsome being until he is thoroughly discredited and utterly destroyed. Until no one – not corporations, not his super rich amigos, no one – can afford to have anything to do with him. We must stomp on him until his reputation and his GOP architecture is dead. Then we must set fire to the remains to ensure that nothing arises from the ashes.

It’s plata o plomo without the silver, just the lead – the same game he plays but with one huge difference. Instead of spinning Big Lies, we have only to divulge and spread the truth – relentlessly, with a vengeance heretofore unimagined by liberal and progressive wusses. And repeat those truths over and over and over. We cannot rest until Karl Rove, and the willfully deceitful tactics he employs, are permanently interred in the graveyard of modern American politics.

Related Posts:
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.


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