What Does He Know That We Don’t?

Bush Administration, corruption, elections, Republican Party

Michael Abramowitz writes in today’s Washington Post:

Amid widespread panic in the Republican establishment about the coming midterm elections, there are two people whose confidence about GOP prospects strikes even their closest allies as almost inexplicably upbeat: President Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove.

Flashback: As I remember it, on election night 2000 the extended Bush clan watched the train wreck from the Texas governor’s mansion. From time to time they’d appear on television, watching television. And at some point someone told them Florida had been called for Gore, and they shrugged it off. They weren’t worried about Florida. They knew they had Florida, one way or another.

Abramowitz continues,

The official White House line of supreme self-assurance comes from the top down. Bush has publicly and privately banished any talk of losing the GOP majorities, in part to squelch any loss of nerve among his legions. Come January, he said last week, “We’ll have a Republican speaker and a Republican leader of the Senate.”

The question is whether this is a case of justified confidence — based on Bush’s and Rove’s electoral record and knowledge of the money, technology and other assets at their command — or of self-delusion. Even many Republicans suspect the latter. Three GOP strategists with close ties to the White House flatly predicted the loss of the House, though they would not do so on the record for fear of offending senior Bush aides.

After the 2004 election, Maureen Farrell wrote an editorial for Buzzflash that documented Bush’s pattern of supreme confidence before “elections”:

On election night, Peter Jennings looked measurably surprised when he learned that President Bush had provided a tape of himself, sitting in the White House, commenting on his impending victory. It was an unprecedented move. No sitting president had ever addressed the nation while polls were still open. It was just not done. But there was George, exuding confidence, offering an election day reminder of our leader’s legitimacy.

It was all so perfectly Rovian, too. And why not? The Bush family filmed a similar made-for-TV moment in 2000, you might recall, when they assured America that Florida belonged to George. “There was one exact moment, in fact, when I knew for sure that Al Gore would Never be President of the United States, no matter what the experts were saying, and that was when the whole Bush family suddenly appeared on TV and openly scoffed at the idea of Gore winning Florida,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote, two weeks before the Supreme Court’s fateful decision.” Of course Bush would win Florida. Losing was out of the question. Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV.”

Election night 2004, however, was not punctuated by any such hooting. It was the end of a long and grueling journey for the President of the United States and his supporters. Tales of voter intimidation, computer glitches and “partisan mischief,” were reported during early voting in Florida, but somehow those things usually worked in the President’s favor. (Would anyone have complained, do you suppose, if John Kerry’s brother had been running the show?).

Of course, thanks to the Electoral College, in a close presidential election one has only to steal one or two states to swing the election. To keep the House in Republican hands, BushCo is going to have to pull a “Florida” in several states at once. And when pollsters are predicting a blowout (as Kevin Heyden notes, even much of the Right Blogosphere has written off the House), even the U.S. news media might get suspicious if Republicans win.

Emptywheel reminds us that Rove isn’t always right.

As I’ve been flying around the world, I’ve been reading all the Rove classics, including Bush’s Brain. And what struck me as I was reading it is the failures that never get mentioned. There’s the loser campaign in PA. Rove’s plans to win CA in 2000 and MI in 2004. These were all part of Rove’s grand plan and they didn’t come to fruition. Only Rove’s overconfidence in the 2000 NH primary ever gets mentioned. Underlying it all (particularly the MI loss, with the failed bid to win supporters by imposing a steel tariff, which really decimated the Tool and Die industry in MI) is the real possibility that, eventually, people are going to want results. Eventually, policy does matter. Rovian politics are not enough–not enough to win wars in Iraq, not enough to save jobs in the Midwest, and not enough to ensure seniors get prescription drugs.

Also at The Next Hurrah, DemFromCT provides a list of “Perceived GOP Errors” that includes Terri Schiavo, Harriet Miers, Dubai Ports, and immigration. I don’t know how much of a hand Rove had in those little episodes, but certainly each of these issues showed the White House with its pants down, so to speak, and very much caught off guard by public reaction it didn’t anticipate.

I’ve long believed that Karl Rove is a kind of Idiot Savant who is brilliant at one thing — Assault Politics — but barely competent at anything else. Like his boy Bush, he may finally have waded in over his head.

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  1. Lynne  •  Oct 15, 2006 @9:19 am

    That’s it, isn’t it, Barbara? And it appears that our country has been governed with one thing in mind: total and perpetual rule by one party. Nothing else is important to these folks. They haven’t misplaced their moral compasses; they never had them to begin with. The Decider and his group are all social misfits who manipulated half of the country into believing that this is all good (because the other half is weak and treasonous, to begin with). What is frightening is how long this play has been going on without challenge..

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 15, 2006 @9:39 am

    I’m an old actor, so, as I understand it, it’s “Ah, politic’s as Theatre…”
    First, propose what the issue is…
    Second, let the character’s talk about it…
    Finally, let there be a resolution… Or, NOT!
    We are past steps 1 & 2. WE are now waiting for Mr. Rove’s latest. WHAT will he do? What WILL he do? What will HE do? What will he DO?
    F*@& him!
    What will you do??????

  3. Bucky Blue  •  Oct 15, 2006 @9:52 am

    Rove is outstanding at character assasination, just ask John McCain and his black daughter in South Carolina. That works when you can focus on a few, or one, opponent. With so many house and senate races as toss ups, or clearly going democrat, you can’t smear them all. Plus the elephant in the room, which is the failed GOP agenda in all of its glory, finally can’t be ignored by many of the electorate. We’ve been too long since we had anything resembling a democratic power that running against that is extremely difficult. That doesn’t stop them from trying it, however, with all of the Clinton bashing, now six years out of office, and the slew of negative campaigning. It’s the only card that the repubs have, and it’s not working as well as it has in the past. Their hope of being able to say, “We’ve had problems but at least we’re not Democrats”, isn’t flying with many of the voters this time around. Which means that it is working with the Religious Righters.

  4. Swami  •  Oct 15, 2006 @10:30 am

    I don’t see brilliance in deception.

  5. tom  •  Oct 15, 2006 @10:39 am

    For the life of me I can’t understand why no one has compaired the Bush presidency (especially with the Iran mess) with Stephen King’s THE DEAD ZONE. I mean, Gregg Stillson anyone?

  6. sulphurdunn  •  Oct 15, 2006 @11:09 am

    I would be upbeat too if my political allies had programmed the voting machines for the election.

  7. Maezeppa  •  Oct 15, 2006 @11:17 am

    EXACTLY. I’ve been saying for years Karl is a one-trick pony and that the trick would get old.

  8. erinyes  •  Oct 15, 2006 @11:30 am

    Why would Bush buy a 98,000 acre spread in Paraguay?
    An escape route? Hmmmm…..

  9. c u n d gulag  •  Oct 15, 2006 @11:41 am

    Here’s the October Surpirse – “There’s a truth that Karl knows is a lie that is a truth. Or, he’s lying… ”
    If you can explian it, you can work for them and make million’s, too….

  10. CV  •  Oct 15, 2006 @12:38 pm

    Rover only has to make it through this election cycle, three and a half weeks. He knows his head is on the block if the Ds get both houses, not just him, Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rice, they’re all going down. The Foley thing threw him off his stride, the October surprise is running late, but watch our fleet provoke Iran. The Eisenhower battle group sitting in the straits of Hormuz would be more intrusive than having a Soviet carrier group cruise up Long Island Sound, only Iran has thousands of anti-ship missiles all along the coast. And with the media out of the way, who’s to say who fired first? (Tonkin anyone?)
    Provoke an attack on All Saints Day and wind the Hype out of it, overshadowing the theft of a dozen elections electronicaly. If the Ds sweep despite the massive fraud, they probably won’t be seated. Start the airwar they have been itching for on November 8. Some pretext will bring us martial law. We already lost Habeus Corpus and the fourth amendment (the first amendment isn’t doing so hot either).
    If they can pull off enough of Rover’s tricks, they can outrun the noose long enough to pack the courts and write their own pardons, having broken everything we have governments for.
    We need to surround the Whitehouse with a million concerned citizens on the day after Election Day. Let them know that we’re on to Rover’s foul play that includes treason, includes the deaths of 3000 (or more) American troops, includes the deaths of 600 000 Iraqis! includes the most cynical exploitation of 9/11 (if not actual responsibility) and may include getting one of our Navy ships attacked and sailors killed, all this to “win elections”, that is: cling to power by any means neccessary.

    C Ya N the Streets

  11. Gordon  •  Oct 15, 2006 @12:48 pm

    Of the list of Repub failures / fiascos / dirty tricks there’s one I would like to remind people of because it’s so emblamatic. Remember all the screaming and hollering about how the (childish) Clinton admin had totally trashed the White House before the (grown-up) Bushies could move in? IT WAS ALL TOTAL BS. Pure fiction.

    The only tricks for this election I can conceive of are (a) some Rovian motivation of the base at the last minute or (b) Diebold dirty tricks. With Mark Foley, Kuo’s book & similar stories, I doubt they can motivate enough fundies. As for (b), with Lou Dobbs signed onto the anti-e-voting campaign, I doubt they can pull much more than minor swings, and if they get caught, e-voting will be forever dead (and as a computer programmer, I say RIP).

    Then again, I’m sure I’d fail Machivellian Politics 101.

  12. beezle  •  Oct 15, 2006 @3:30 pm

    Before the 2004 election, Rove was also completely confident that Bush would win Ohio. Funny that Ohio did come through for Bush but only under questionable electoral circumstances.

  13. William Slattery  •  Oct 15, 2006 @3:41 pm

    Fact 1: Bush needs a big national security event to avert the loss of his Republican legislature.

    Fact 2: Republican strategists are confounded by Bush’s over-confidence in Republicans regaining the legislature.

    Fact 3: Israel says Iran paid North Korea to run the recent missile tests and underground nuclear test.


    Fact 4: The U.S. plans naval exercises for the Persian Gulf, to begin October 31.

    Plausible inference: military attacks on Iran to begin in early November, for the stated purpose of preventing Iran from benefitting from its deal to acquire nuclear weapons from Korea, and for the actual purpose of securing Republican victory in the November elections.

  14. cheryl  •  Oct 15, 2006 @4:16 pm

    Even the toughest bullies on the block sooner or later meet up with one bigger and tougher than they are-and they find themselves bottom bouncers with shredded dignity (if there was any to have). The toughest bully these thugs will meet up with-the average United States citizen who votes on November 7 to get rid of the corruption!!!!!!!!

  15. maha  •  Oct 15, 2006 @4:21 pm

    for the actual purpose of securing Republican victory in the November elections

    I wouldn’t put anything past ’em, but I’m not sure that trick will work any more.

  16. Donna  •  Oct 15, 2006 @4:26 pm

    Rove and Bush perfected how to manipulate public opinion by bald-faced lying and photo-op posturing, and got away with it for way too long because the public needed strong evidence to realize they’d been gamed [Katrina, Iraq….] More and more Americans have learned to pause and question anything that comes out of this administration.

    I think their assertion that the Republicans will maintain both majorities is just an 11th hour bald-faced lie by sociopaths. This ‘posturing’ is pathetically the only ‘competency’ these spinners have ever been interested in developing.

    As for bashing Clinton: Whenever there is yet another ‘blame Clinton’ moment, think of how that really translates, i.e., Republicans are admitting that Clinton’s power was/is far superior to Bush’s power. After all, their impotent Bush, even with lock-step support of Congress, couldn’t, in six years, undo anything that the [much more powerful] Clinton set in motion.

  17. Ken  •  Oct 15, 2006 @5:33 pm

    Polls mean nothing. The ONLY thing that matters is the count that comes out of the voting machines.

    Rove worried? About what?

  18. left in a right world  •  Oct 15, 2006 @6:24 pm

    Voting machines, voting machines!!

    Farthest out scenario? As SOLE deciderer for America, hostile incident once our Navy moves into position in the Gulf of Harmotz, King George declares “state of emergency” and cancels all elections until “War on Terror is over( which is never , because victory has not been defined.

    This is what can happen when a great country like America starts passing laws that put too much power into one’s leader. America has turned into a Banana Republic, complete with Kangaroo Courts and other indignities to a democracy.

  19. epppie  •  Oct 15, 2006 @7:44 pm

    Genius, thug, sociopath, all the above; in the end, does it matter what we call Rove? He is the single person who has most obviously dominated American politics over the past decade. I almost think that anyone who thinks he doesn’t have a bag of tricks planned for the election hasn’t been watching politics.

    He will have a thousand different ways to 8888 us and democracy over in 2006. Remember 2004? Remember how the dems were supposedly looking for a repeat of Fla, and instead they got a whole different set of tricks, varied enough that when “tin foil hatters” started screaming about them, most people’s eyes started glazing over. Rove will have a bigger bag of tricks this time. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t purposefully throw a few elections for the Dems, just to muddy the waters.

    He knows that if you muddy the waters enough, the strongest, most ruthless framing wins. In other words, what you do is 8888 in the waters , stir, and then start lying like mad.

    So, in the end, it comes down to what someone said in the comments above. It’s not what Rove does. It’s not what the Pubs do. It’s what we do.

  20. Badmoonrising  •  Oct 16, 2006 @8:10 am

    The only thing that will save these anti-democracy thugs from loosing the House is election skullduggery, at which they have shown themselves to be quite the expert.

    Their test run at stealing senatorial elections was the Georgia senate race of 2002 which put Chamblis in office.

    I believe they can steal any election anyhere they need to. The only thing that will make it obvious that they have done so, is s huge turn out this year. Midterms usually don’t bring out as many voters as presidential elections.

    A huge turn out will be a big news story in itself. If the same complaints start being reported this year as were in 2004, they will carry much more credibility.

    Even in you vote absentee, show up at the polls anyway, just to add to the crowds.

  21. Greyhound  •  Oct 16, 2006 @10:41 am

    Just to add: I think there’s a psych-out effect here, too. Bush has always functioned as a bully, and bullies win by psyching out their opponents to believe they really ARE unbeatable. And no-one wants to go against a bully sure to win. (Once that shatters, of course, it can never be put together again.)
    Still, this may be a Bush/Rovian tactic to psych-out the Dems and others that they WILL win, so people better just vote for him OR ELSE.

  22. rightnomore  •  Oct 16, 2006 @5:21 pm

    This is why they are taking away funding from races they know are lost and funnelling it to the close races. That way they can claim that’s how those races went to the repubs. They only need a certain number – they’ll hang the ones they don’t need out to dry and it all looks legit. Just as the media didn’t believe the exit polls in Ohio, they will never believe it wasn’t the “additional funding” that caused all the close races to go republican.

  23. Lescoeurs  •  Oct 16, 2006 @5:40 pm

    The last line regarding idiot savant is the whole deal with Karl Rove. “Assault Politics” was conceived many years ago, but no one has refined it or pursued with the unfettered zeal of Karl Rove(except perhaps Joe McCarthy). The question, Dear Friends, “What to do ?” The Dems still have no answer to that questions and I feel as impotent as Joe Welch when he finally asked the timid question on National TV, “Have you no decency, sir ?” His very humility cut “Gunner Joe” off at the knees.
    Has that question been raised and has it received widespread coverage? Perhaps the religious guy with the brain tumor had the same impact last night on “60 Minutes.” His humility had power and, perhaps, the same question was asked in a different way. I hope so.

  24. LEWIS_STOOLE  •  Oct 16, 2006 @6:37 pm

    you left out the failed attempt to “privatize” social security.

  25. Bernard  •  Oct 16, 2006 @8:23 pm

    The fix is in as it was in 2004. The machines will count Republicans as winners. The last real election was 1998.

  26. Baddkonig  •  Oct 17, 2006 @3:54 pm

    Everyone who is voting with an Absentee Ballot needs to make a photo-copy of it, and have it signed by a witness. So, when (not if), the election is controlled by Diebold, some of us WILL have a paper trail, and can demand a recount of the Absentee Ballots. It is my belief that since the vote will be tampered with electronically Absentee Ballots will not even be counted. This is providing that we will have an election.

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