September 16, 2010
The Architect Has No ClothesBy C. Edmund Wright
Frightening as the image might be to ponder, "the architect" Karl Rove was stripped bare for all to see on Fox News' Hannity show Tuesday night, thanks to his odd response to Christine O'Donnell's win in Delaware.
Rove demonstrated to all what I have believed since 2000: that he is a political operative with little or no evidence of a philosophical soul. Voters -- equally soulless in his mind -- are mere commodities to deal with, and precincts are the way these commodities are organized. They are to be bought and sold with the micromanaging of a trade deal here or a pro-life direct mail piece there -- orchestrated by the ruling elitists in Washington.
One gets the feeling that he could have worked equally as happily for a Democrat simply by changing a few words on certain ads to certain districts.
When Bush was in office, Rove predictably started out on a plan to form what he called "a permanent Republican majority" that would be constructed with a mushy new tone, a "can't we all just get along" mentality. The strategy would dictate that no one would ever return fire on political opponents -- while having a "flexible philosophy" to which Rove would adapt policy as issues came and went in certain parts of the country.
There was by design no coherent message of constitutional conservatism, which is what most of Bush's voters thought they were voting for. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?
How and why Rove thought this could possibly work is beyond me. What he thought it would accomplish -- even if it were possible -- is an even more salient question. It could not work, and it did not work.
So I have to ask:
What the will a Senate majority full of Olympia Snowes and John McCains and Lindsey Grahams get you? Easy. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid in power. This is exactly the legacy of the Bush presidency --and Rove was right there at the levers of power the entire way.
Truth be told, Rove's biggest architectural accomplishment is the Obama administration. By doing his part as senior advisor to the president to define conservatism down, he sullied the reputation and disoriented the understanding of what it means to be conservative to millions of half-informed voters nationwide.
How did this manifest?
It has had a disastrous effect on the outcome of elections across the country since 2006. Frankly, a case can be made that only the Democrats' Wellstone Memorial in 2002 and an awful Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004 allowed the perception that the Bush White House had an effective political wing. I submit that they never did. With Bush leaving office at around 26% approval, no one debates that now. This was Rove's wing.
Which raises the question I've had for ten years: can we finally -- once and for all -- bury the myth of the "architect"? With all due respect, putting together a strategy that forged a statistical tie with Gore-Lieberman and edged Kerry-Edwards by 3 points with the power of incumbency is not the stuff of genius.
Lee Atwater would be ashamed of such results. So how did Rove get this reputation?
Simply put, it was Ohio 2000. I can almost imagine the conversations:
"Hey, let's not worry about any overarching principles to stand on or stand by. Nobody has those, do they? (Certainly not political operatives.) We will simply trick these few precincts in Ohio with various rented issues -- so we can beat Gore in Ohio."
As it turned out, Rove was indeed brilliant in how he micromanaged Ohio for Bush in 2000. Given the pathetic nature of the national campaign's macro-message, it was a good thing Rove was awesome in Ohio. His plan for certain areas of Ohio involving less than thirty thousand voters was the key piece that eventually made victory possible for Bush.
On a certain level -- a level that perhaps only the brilliant Michael Barone can fully understand -- it was brilliance. Voilà: the "architect" is born. "Boy genius," according to George W. Bush's pet name. How cute.
The problem is, Rove's aptitude for dissecting the nation precinct by precinct was confused by many as overall political and philosophical genius. It is not. It is right brain versus left brain. The case with many people who are advanced in left-brain thinking is that right-brain, big-picture truths often escape them.
The Reagan revolution was built on a right-brained concept of big ideas and big dreams -- and all of them based on our Constitution and the American dream. The same can be said for Newt Gingrich's Contract with America election of 1994. No one worried about ginning up certain precincts here and there with flexible philosophies because there was a wave of consistent philosophical truth that made renting individual precincts irrelevant.
That is the stuff of genius. That is what is happening across America now, and the genius resides not in any political operative's headquarters -- it resides in the people's hearts and minds. The conservative ascendency is a movement that needs no "architects" or "boy geniuses."
And maybe that is what is so irritating to the man formerly referred to as "the architect." He is not needed anymore. The country has perhaps passed him by. Those who had not figured it out before this week did so Tuesday evening.
(The author owned the website domain "FireKarlRove.com" in the early 2000s.)