Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Karl Rove and Lee Atwater

It is the job of the Dirty Tricks Detective to remind one and all that history continually repeats itself. Today the topic is Karl Rove, who resigned yesterday after successfully engineering George W. Bush's two campaigns for President. Pundits are generally in agreement that Rove is now a liability, not just to the President but to the GOP, though mainly because of his overreaching his brief to become involved in matters of White House policy.
But most scribes give Rove a ruefully admiring nod for being an innovator in the game of dirty, hardball politics and what the New York Times calls "simple, often negative messages." But while the Rover certainly played hard, he is only one in a long line of political hurlers adept at delivering the doctored fastball. Who can forget George H.W. Bush's fervent assault on Michael Dukakis in 1988 in which campaign manager Lee Atwater pursued a strategy of "raising the negatives," particularly in regards to Willie Horton, the black criminal paroled to commit yet another crime while Dukakis was Governor of Massachusetts. As Atwater so famously commented, re Dukakis: "I'm going to strip the bark off the little bastard and make Willie Horton his running mate."
Nicely put. The 1988 Bush campaign also claimed in an ad that if Dukakis were elected president, he would release Chicago mass murderer John Wayne Gacy from jail, prompting an irate letter from the serial killer himself: "It's an insult to the voting public that [Republicans are] exploiting the name of John Wayne Gacy to scare people into voting for George Bush."
Karl Rove no doubt has any number of good smears tucked away in his Dirty Tricks portfolio, to savor on those long, rainy nights ahead, but if you haven't gotten a serial killer clown really angry at you, you still haven't made the big time.

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