Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Karl Rove's Big, Sleazy Comeback

Image from Crooks & Liars
Back in the waning days of the Bush administration (not coincidentally, in the early days of this blog), I was eagerly anticipating the "frog march" of Karl Rove, in shackles, into a jail cell. It was a delicious, delirious fantasy of mine back then. I will cop to having had a fairly strong case of Bush Derangement Syndrome, but will also insist that I had a good, honest case of it. This wasn't a day-after-the-election affliction, I gave W's crew time, especially after September 11, 2001.

But that ended some time after the Iraq War started, and then over the ensuing, torturous months and years, from torture to the outing of Valerie Plame. The Bush administration was an odd amalgamation of evil, incompetence, ego, swagger, bullshit and lies. All smothered in a film of greasy sleaze. His name was Karl Rove. While you could point your finger at Lee Atwater or maybe even Newt Gingrich for the poisoning of our political process, Rove is the one who cranked the dial on the alternate reality machine to 11, with lots of help from Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tom DeLay, and others.

Sometimes, I still dream about it. Though I don't think
he was ever this svelte. Image from Crooks & Liars.

No lie was too big, no falsehood too elaborate. Rove and crew would say something clearly and on the record, and then deny having said it. They'd pretty much tell you to pay no attention to your lying eyes, and listen to them. They knew the truth. And you know what happened. The administration is so despised, they had little role in either the 2008 or the 2012 Republican National Conventions, nor much in the actual campaigns.

Except for Rove. His twin entities, CrossroadsGPS and American Crossroads are superfunders of candidates all over the country, from lowly, back-bench Congressional candidates to powerful, well-known Senators, and of course the presidential race. Rove--seldom depicted by anyone other than arch conservatives as absolute pond scum--has made himself over as a king maker.  The man George W. Bush referred to as "Turd Blossom" is waggling his piggishness right under our noses, playing a huge part in the electoral process (both with straight advocacy ads, and bullshit "issues" ads*), while appearing on FOX "News" as a paid political consultant, as though he's just commenting upon the proceedings.
Rove's big target in Nevada,
Shelley Berkley. Image from Wiki

If you live in a battleground state, or simply one that has a Congress or Senate seat prime for the picking, you've been seeing Crossroads ads. Here in Nevada, Shelley Berkley, a long-term Congresswoman, is running for John Ensign's old seat. After Ensign resigned in disgrace, Congressman Dean Heller--who now has the distinction of voting for the "Ryan Plan" to voucherize Medicare twice--was appointed to the Senate, and is thus the incumbent. Heller hasn't been a very distinguished Congressman in either house, as far as I can tell. Berkley on the other hand, is a Nevada institution, beloved by her constituency, even treated kindly on right-wing talk radio.
Until now. Now, she's apparently just awful. Or you'd think so, if you ever watch television or listen to radio. We are deluged with anti-Berkley ads with vague charges of impropriety, nearly all from outside groups, chiefly Rove's Crossroads GPS. They air nearly as frequently as the anti-Obama ads. Which means, they really, really want to retain Heller's seat, and they're gambling (ha!) that we'll forget about Ensign and of course, Heller's voting record. What's in it for Rove? Apparently, big bucks. It's sure not reputation, except with the Republican establishment, I guess.

Back in Ohio, my home state, one of the main targets it Sherrod Brown, a well-liked and outspoken Democratic Senator. Only, in Ohio, Brown is an incumbent, so he needed a challenger. By all accounts I've heard, the guy they got to run against him--Josh Mandel--is kind of a twerp. And a lying one at that. From the sounds of it, he's kind of like the Paul Ryan speech at the RNC, but all the time. Dishonesty, however, is not a disqualifier for public office in the Republican Party. Especially this year. And it is certainly not a disqualifier for support from Rove's big-money groups.
Josh Mendel, left, challenging Sherrod Brown.
Image from Cleveland.com

Which is a long way to go to say that this political season, all is not as it seems. Political ads have always been down and dirty, but now they are not only more numerous, they are much shadier. Rove's aren't the only groups out there doing this. But like his, a lot of them aren't beholden to anybody, or at least no one we know about. In some cases we don't know who is funding the groups, and in some cases may be of foreign extraction. How would we know? All I ask is that if you hear some horrible, terrible no good "facts" about a candidate, and it's a group like Rove's doing the alleging? Either tune it out, or do your homework, find out if it's just a turd blossom.

*Note: "Issue Advocacy" ads are the smelliest of the bullshit ads. They're the ones that allegedly do not advocate for any specific candidate, but only for an issue. This skirts some legal technicality somewhere, and it's part of the reason why Rove has two groups. In this type of ad, you can still play ominous music, can still talk about a candidate, but you have to couch it in terms like "Call President Obama. Tell him to support drilling in the gulf. . ." or some nonsense, but it's technically not an anti- Obama ad. Both sides do it, true, but guess who's got the pocketbook.

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