Rove: Politically Astute To Politically Stupid

Karl Rove unequivocally deserves his reputation as king maker/political Svengali.

It’s been evident since he helped George W. Bush upset Ann Richards for governor of Texas. We’ve seen it through two Bush presidential elections. He’s the acknowledged architect of Red State America.

We’ve even seen him cherry pick Mel Martinez, the Cuban Pedro Pan-turned- White House-harlot, to take back Bob Graham’s senate seat for the GOP.

He is the Republican most responsible for harnessing the pulpit populism of the evangelical and cultural right into pragmatic, political power: from pro-life to anti-Saddam.

He panders with a Midas touch.

Until now. From politically astute to politically stupid in a sound bite.

That’s the upshot of Rove’s flippant – but surely calculated – recent comments lambasting liberals for what, he asserted, was a less-than-robust reaction to 9/11.

Conservatives, said Rove, “saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.”

Granted, this red-meat rhetoric wasn’t tossed to a Quaker peace rally – but the New York state Conservative Party in a venue not far from Ground Zero. And, yes, liberals might just revel in being the antithesis of a take-no-prisoners approach to defending the homeland. And, yes, it does follow earlier flaps caused by the truculent remarks of Democratic Chairman Howard Dean, who railed at Republicans’ ostensible distaste for an “honest day’s work,” and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s repellent comparison of the Guantanamo prison to Nazi camps and Soviet gulags.

But Rove is supposed to know better. It’s what he does. It’s all he does.

Always on his agenda: sucking up to and energizing the converted – without a tradeoff. You can’t lose what you’ve already written off. But there are conservative Democrats and independents – politically endangered species, to be sure – who can still determine close elections. It’s not smart to alienate those still listening in an increasingly polarized polity.

If there’s a place for such acerbic sass, it’s a political primary where only true believers really matter. Where you can get away with characterizing non-conservatives as part of a MoveOn.orgy. But the days of presidential primaries are as much in Rove’s past as in Bush’s.

When Rove speaks, which is usually through others, he speaks for the White House and a president who once said he wanted to be a “uniter,” not a “divider.”

The need has never been more acute for this country to be united. War will do that. But, arguably, the chasm of divisiveness only broadens. And this Rovean cheap shot only widens it farther.

Rove also did a disservice to the war effort, per se, with his comment that “Liberals saw what happened to us, and said, ‘We must understand our enemies.'”

Counterproductive political bombast is not the same as a dangerously misleading spin on the war against terrorism. It’s disingenuously simplistic to say “they hate us because they hate freedom” and our way of life. That’s now a Bush Administration mantra.

They disrespect our democratic ideals and castigate our celebrity culture – but not enough to warrant atrocities. What they truly hate – as only Islamaniacs can hate – is our foreign policy – from Israel as de facto 51st state to corrupt, autocratic sheikdoms in bed with the U.S. We are not obligated, of course, to sign off on Osama bin Laden’s grievance list, but we ignore the real terrorist underpinnings and motivations at our own peril.

The Deans and Durbins help neither their country – nor their party – with their ill-considered, ill-tempered barbs.

Ditto for Rove, who should know the difference between being a George Bush surrogate and emulating Steve Spurrier slumming with the boosters.

So much for the Midas touch. However, a Midas muffler might be appropriate.

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