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September 13, 2006

Dirty Tricks Master, Karl Rove, to Stump for Reichert

Why would “the Sheriff” bring someone to raise money for him who has repeatedly skirted the law?  Desperation?  We have to assume it is nothing else.  The latest poll shows his opponent, Darcy Burner, ahead by a couple of points, and that is without the 90% plus name recognition that Reichert commands.  So, Karl Rove, the man who groomed George Bush for President and ran a series of truly dirty political campaigns to get him elected and re-elected, is coming to Medina this Friday to raise money for Dave Reichert. This is the man whom “the Sheriff” has asked to come help him stave off the increasingly successful campaign of Darcy Burner.

Let’s make certain it doesn’t work.

From his earliest days in the College Republicans, Karl Rove has been focused on using organization, message and dirty tricks. Most recently of course his name has been linked with leaking an undercover CIA agent’s name to the media and using that to go after her husband, Joe Wilson, for speaking and writing about the administration’s lack of evidence for starting a pre-emptive war with Iraq. Rove has not been charged with any crime yet in the Plame case and it is possible that he may never be. 

That in fact has always been Rove’s modus operandi.  James Moore and Wayne Slater, writing in the book, “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential”, say that this type of incident was a hallmark of Rove’s campaigns in Texas.  He was repeatedly involved in “unexpected, campaign-shaping events” but not in a way that could be directly linked to him.  “It became his motif.  There is no crime, just a victim.  Evidence is gone before acquiring substance.” (p. 52)

Let’s look at just who Karl Rove is, the latest Bush Administration emissary to come stump for Reichert.

The Early Days

Rove worked on his first Republican campaign while still in High School in Salt Lake City.  He went on to the University of Utah and began working with the infamous College Republicans.  Beginning in 1973, he worked extensively with Lee Atwater who considered politics to be war. Atwater understood the shifting demographics of the South and the wedge issues, such as gun control and the flag, that could unite conservative Republicans and Reagan Democrats.  He knew how to leverage these issues to divide his Democratic opponents and attract new Republican voters. Part of Rove’s job with the College Republicans was to teach dirty tricks.

In 1973, Rove came to the attention of George H.W. Bush who was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee and became national chairman of the Young Republicans.

Rove worked for Ford’s reelection campaign in 1976, becoming a successful direct-mail fund-raiser.  When Carter won, Rove went to work in Texas.

Honing His Skills in Texas

Karl Rove was instrumental in changing the face of Texas politics between the mid 80's, when every statewide office was held by Democrats, and 2000, when every statewide office was held by Republicans.

Journalists and observers of the Texas political scene describe Rove as strategic, determined and in command of more critical demographic facts and political history and knowledge than any person they've ever met. They also see him as consistently capable of using any tactic or tool that is required, many ethically questionable, to win.

Rove wrote a memo in 1982 describing how Republicans could gain ascendancy in the state.  Reagan was making the Republican Party an attractive alternative to Southern whites and upwardly mobile Northerners moving to the suburbs of the South.  Rove saw this demographic shift and understood the political implications.

The dirty tricks were consistent and campaign changing.  First there was an odd bugging incident right before the 1986 gubernatorial election.  It occurred in Rove’s own office.  Rove called in the FBI and reporters and claimed it was done by the Democrats.  The Republicans pushed the story for five days, long enough to send the Democratic incumbent’s campaign into reverse and cause a win for Rove’s Republican client.  Then the story disappeared.

Something similar happened with Jim Hightower’s reelection campaign in 1990.  Hightower was running for reelection to the office of Agricultural Commissioner, an important office in Texas.  The same FBI, a man known to have lunch with Rove, investigated a standard audit right before the election.  Reporters were given tips before the findings were made public.  Hightower lost to Republican Rick Perry, a client of Karl Rove’s.  Then the investigation stopped and no charges were ever filed.

By the early 1990’s Texas Republicans were clearing all their potential statewide candidates through Rove, including judges.  Large companies, like Philip Morris, were paying him for political advice.  He was working all the angles – cultivating business and using their contributions to ensure the election of candidates favorable to business.

Starting to sound familiar isn’t it?

Next came a win for Kay Bailey Hutchison for a special election campaign in June of 1993 for the U.S. Senate against a candidate hand-picked by Governor Ann Richards, giving Texas two Republican U.S. Senators for the first time.

Rove Makes Bush Governor

Even before the 1990 gubernatorial election in Texas, Karl Rove was thinking about running George W. Bush as governor, then president.  But Bush wasn’t ready in 1990.  Instead he found a job that suited him well and positioned him as a successful businessperson in his own right: general managing partner of the Texas Rangers.

Rove began assembling the campaign team for Bush’s gubernatorial run in 1993 and had Bush tutored in state government issues.  Rove knew that state business interests would support Bush financially and he was right.  He ran two campaigns against Richards.  Again, according to Moore and Slater, “one in which Bush floated above the fray and another in which Rove targeted the Democrat’s politics and gender.  It was an arrangement that allowed Bush plausible deniability, no matter what.  And it was a model of future Bush races: Bush traveling the high road, Rove pursuing the low.”

Bush challenged her record on improving public schools and fighting crime.  Rove worked through surrogates to undermine Richards on the issues of gays and guns.  He even started a whisper campaign against her in conservative, previously Democratic, parts of the state, intimating that she was a lesbian.

Bush won and it was on to planning a White House run.  During the six years of Bush’s governorship, under Rove’s guidance, Bush moved toward increasingly expedient political positions on key issues, shifting his attention from funding schools to tax cuts, for instance.  Abortion restrictions and school vouchers were on.  The hate crimes bill was off.   

The Run for the White House

Rove successfully engineered a Bush win in Iowa but missed in New Hampshire, allowing John McCain an opening. 

As the campaign moved into conservative South Carolina, the next primary state, Bush’s campaign worked to switch the voter’s perception of Bush as a politician and McCain as a reformer.  The Bush campaign started using the slogan ‘Bush – Reformer with Results’ and also ran ads calling McCain a hypocrite for taking money form PAC’s while running on a platform of campaign finance reform.  In a series of radio attacks and direct-mailings, McCain was falsely accused of backing away from his pro-life stance, abandoning Vietnam veterans, fathering illegitimate children and having a wife who had drug problems.  Some of the accusations came from independent organizations, some from the Bush camp.  Rove had long ago learned that radio and direct mail were immune from press coverage. 

The campaign infuriated McCain who had believed Bush’s public proclamations of a fair fight.  He was goaded into comparing Bush with Clinton in a television ad.  In what some called ‘the Sonny Corleone move’, referring to the set-up that got Sonny to move from his safe location and therefore be killed, Rove was ready.  The Bush camp responded immediately by accusing McCain of negative campaigning and having difficulty controlling his anger.  Bush took South Carolina by 11 percent and went on to win the Republican nomination. 

In the general election of 2000, the Bush campaign focused on character rather than on policy.  They questioned Gore’s integrity, painting him as someone “who would say anything to get elected”.  Bush was able to win by exceeding expectations the three debates with Gore, portraying Gore as lacking integrity and the common touch, and by staving off a last minute story about a drunk driving charge than Bush had incurred in 1976, at age 30, and subsequent attempts to conceal it.

And we know what happened there.

In the White House

Rove continued to focus on winning the next election.  That is Rove’s standard.  Politics, not policy or morality.  In 2002, Rove was able to dismantle the Democrats so effectively, they are only now recovering.  He silenced the opposition with intimidation and picked off constituencies.  The focus on the upcoming war with Iraq deprived the Democrats of all the domestic issues they would have led on. 

Pretty much the same thing happened in 2004. 

Only now, with the rise of the progressive blogs and the ability of the blogosphere to research and articulate the truth about what is going on and to support the Democrats who dare to speak the truth, are we overcoming the strategy and tactics that have made Karl Rove so dangerous.

This is the man whom “the Sheriff” has asked to come help him stave off the increasingly successful campaign of Darcy Burner.  Contribute to Darcy's campaign to prevent Rove from maintaining his control of the Republican House.

Posted by Lynn Allen on September 13, 2006 at 11:10 AM in Candidate Races, National and International Politics | Permalink

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