Saturday, June 25, 2005

Prior Planning

Karl Rove knew exactly what he was doing.

His speech last Wednesday night to the New York Conservative party was booked months ago. The speech itself was drafted and vetted by the White House staff over the last few weeks, if not months. The timing was considered carefully, and the speech itself was delivered at a time and place where the White House was sure that it would get the maximum coverage. The loyalists were prepped so the RNC would have talking points at the ready when the reactions would start coming in Thursday morning.

They knew exactly what they were doing. And they knew exactly how the left and the right would react. And they were right. The left exploded with anger, calling Mr. Rove everything within our collective lexicon of wonderfully imaginative terms — skank, whore, douchebag, pigfucker — and demanded his resignation or apology or both. The right wing chortled with glee as they watched the left get all worked up, and then shook their head and sighed that such angry people who couldn’t get their facts straight had no business being taken seriously, much less hold positions of power in office.

Karl Rove will not resign. He will not apologize. The press secretary will not come out to the press room to “clarify” what he said. He may express utter mystification that his remarks were “misconstrued,” but he will stand by them and after one or two news cycles, it will be forgotten, and unless something extraordinary happens — like monkeys fly out of his ass — Mr. Rove will step back behind the curtain and go back to running the country.

That’s because Karl Rove’s job is politics. He does nothing else. He does not believe in bipartisanship any more than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs believes in turning the Pentagon into a day-care center. Karl Rove believes that partisanship is good. It is what gets things done. It is what makes people talk. Not necessarily about the issues, but about what drives the issues and when you can control the talk, you can control the issue. For example, Social Security. Here was the perfect issue to throw out there to shake up the cages of the politicians and get some much-needed distraction from the images of burning cars and dead soldiers in Iraq. It was an audacious move that he knew would galvanize the nation. Social Security has been sacrosanct for over seventy years, and now the Bush administration was talking about making radical changes to it — privatizing part of it, means-testing the recipients, raising the cap on taxes. Rove knew none of it would come to pass, and he doesn’t care what happens to Social Security anyway; neither he or anyone he cares about will ever need to live on it, and if it goes bankrupt, it will happen long after he’s passed from the scene, either literally or figuratively. But he did accomplish his goal — he got Bush into the history books for daring to challenge the conventional wisdom that Social Security is the third rail of politics: he touched it yet survived. It doesn’t matter that whatever changes wrought to Social Security by Congress will be cosmetic tweaks and do nothing to solve the far-off crisis, but that wasn’t what he wanted to do anyway. He never gave a damn about it. It was just the stick to provoke the arguments and divert the attention away from the disaster in Iraq. (To be fair, Bill Clinton tried the same thing with health care. The difference, however, between Clinton and Bush is that Clinton actually wanted to provide health care to all the citizens of the country.)

So while it may feel good to rant about how Karl Rove is slandering an entire segment of the national political discussion, it’s exactly what he is paid to do. The only startling revelation is that since he is widely regarded as being the brains of the outfit and therefore whatever he says is the true philosophy of the Bush administration, that he felt confident enough to speak publicly about what up until now has been a closely-guarded silent motivation for their actions; he can now speak freely about what their true intentions are and what the political lay of the land will be for the next few years. He believes that he can control the story and that his opposition is so weak that he can actually show them the playbook for the second half of the game. From now until the end, it’s all politics and partisanship. Don’t say they didn’t warn you.