Sunday, August 19, 2007

He Got Out While the Getting Was Good

Published: August 19, 2007


BACK in those heady days of late summer 2002, Andrew Card, then the president's chief of staff, told The New York Times why the much-anticipated push for war in Iraq hadn't yet arrived. "You don't introduce new products in August," he said, sounding like the mouthpiece for the Big Three automakers he once was. Sure enough, with an efficiency Detroit can only envy, the manufactured aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds rolled off the White House assembly line after Labor Day like clockwork.


Five summers later, we have the flip side of the Card corollary: You do recall defective products in August, whether you're Mattel or the Bush administration. Karl Rove's departure was both abrupt and fast. The ritualistic "for the sake of my family" rationale convinced no one, and the decision to leak the news in a friendly print interview (on The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page) rather than announce it in a White House spotlight came off as furtive. Inquiring Rove haters wanted to know: Was he one step ahead of yet another major new scandal? Was a Congressional investigation at last about to draw blood?

Perhaps, but the Republican reaction to Mr. Rove's departure is more revealing than the cries from his longtime critics. No G.O.P. presidential candidates paid tribute to Mr. Rove, and, except in the die-hard Bush bastions of Murdochland present (The Weekly Standard, Fox News) and future (The Journal), the conservative commentariat was often surprisingly harsh. It is this condemnation of Rove from his own ideological camp — not the Democrats' familiar litany about his corruption, polarizing partisanship, dirty tricks, etc. — that the White House and Mr. Rove wanted to bury in the August dog days.

What the Rove critics on the right recognize is that it may be even more difficult for their political party to dig out of his wreckage than it will be for America. Their angry bill of grievances only sporadically overlaps that of the Democrats. One popular conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, mocked Mr. Rove and his interviewer, Paul Gigot, for ignoring "the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies," not to mention "the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty." Ms. Malkin, an Asian-American in her 30s, comes from a far different place than the Gigot-Fred Barnes-William Kristol axis of Bush-era ideological lock step.

Those Bush dead-enders are in a serious state of denial. Just how much so could be found in the Journal interview when Mr. Rove extolled his party's health by arguing, without contradiction from Mr. Gigot, that young people are more "pro-life" and "free-market" than their elders. Maybe he was talking about 12-year-olds. Back in the real world of potential voters, the latest New York Times-CBS News poll of Americans aged 17 to 29 found that their views on abortion were almost identical to the rest of the country's. (Only 24 percent want abortion outlawed.)

That poll also found that the percentage of young people who identify as Republicans, whether free-marketers or not, is down to 25, from a high of 37 at the end of the Reagan era. Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, found that self-identified G.O.P. voters are trending older rapidly, with the percentage over age 55 jumping from 28 to 41 percent in a decade.

Every poll and demographic accounting finds the Republican Party on the losing side of history, both politically and culturally. Not even a miraculous armistice in Iraq or vintage Democratic incompetence may be able to ride to the rescue. A survey conducted by The Journal itself (with NBC News) in June reported G.O.P. approval numbers lower than any in that poll's two decades of existence. Such is the political legacy for a party to which Mr. Rove sold Mr. Bush as "a new kind of Republican," an exemplar of "compassionate conservatism" and the avatar of a permanent Republican majority.

That sales pitch, as we long ago learned, was all about packaging, not substance. The hope was that No Child Left Behind and a 2000 G.O.P. convention stacked with break dancers and gospel singers would peel away some independent and black voters from the Democrats. The promise of immigration reform would spread Bush's popularity among Hispanics. Another potential add-on to the Republican base was Muslims, a growing constituency that Mr. Rove's pal Grover Norquist plotted to herd into the coalition.

The rest is history. Any prospect of a rapprochement between the G.O.P. and African-Americans died in the New Orleans Superdome. The tardy, botched immigration initiative unleashed a wave of xenophobia against Hispanics, the fastest-growing voting bloc in the country. The Muslim outreach project disappeared into the memory hole after 9/11.

Forced to pick a single symbolic episode to encapsulate the collapse of Rovian Republicanism, however, I would not choose any of those national watersheds, or even the implosion of the Iraq war, but the George Allen "macaca" moment. Its first anniversary fell, fittingly enough, on the same day last weekend that Mitt Romney bought his victory at the desultory, poorly attended G.O.P. straw poll in Iowa.

A century seems to have passed since Mr. Allen, the Virginia Republican running for re-election to the Senate, was anointed by Washington insiders as the inevitable heir to the Bush-Rove mantle: a former governor whose jus'-folks personality, the Bushian camouflage for hard-edged conservatism, would propel him to the White House. Mr. Allen's senatorial campaign and presidential future melted down overnight after he insulted a Jim Webb campaign worker, the 20-year-old son of Indian immigrants, not just by calling him a monkey but by sarcastically welcoming him "to America" and "the real world of Virginia."

This incident had resonance well beyond Virginia and Mr. Allen for several reasons. First, it crystallized the monochromatic whiteness at the dark heart of Rovian Republicanism. For all the minstrel antics at the 2000 convention, the record speaks for itself: there is not a single black Republican serving in either the House or Senate, and little representation of other minorities, either. Far from looking like America, the G.O.P. caucus, like the party's presidential field, could pass for a Rotary Club, circa 1954. Meanwhile, a new census analysis released this month finds that nonwhites now make up a majority in nearly a third of the nation's most populous counties, with Houston overtaking Los Angeles in black population and metropolitan Chicago surpassing Honolulu in Asian residents. Even small towns and rural America are exploding in Hispanic growth.

Second, the Allen slur was a compact distillation of the brute nastiness of the Bush-Rove years, all that ostentatious "compassion" notwithstanding. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are not xenophobes, but the record will show that their White House spoke up too late and said too little when some of its political allies descended into Mexican-bashing during the immigration brawl. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove winked at anti-immigrant bigotry, much as they did at the homophobia they inflamed with their incessant election-year demagoguery about same-sex marriage.

Finally, the "macaca" incident was a media touchstone. It became a national phenomenon when the video landed on YouTube, the rollicking Web site whose reach now threatens mainstream news outlets. A year later, leading Republicans are still clueless and panicked about this new medium, which is why they, unlike their Democratic counterparts, pulled out of even a tightly controlled CNN-YouTube debate. It took smart young conservative bloggers like a former Republican National Committee operative, Patrick Ruffini, to shame them into reinstating the debate for November, lest the entire G.O.P. field look as pathetically out of touch as it is.

The rise of YouTube certifies the passing of Mr. Rove's era, a cultural changing of the guard in the digital age. Mr. Rove made his name in direct-mail fund-raising and with fierce top-down message management. As the Internet erodes snail mail, so it upends direct mail. As YouTube threatens a politician's ability to rigidly control a message, so it threatens the Rove ethos that led Mr. Bush to campaign at "town hall" meetings attended only by hand-picked supporters.

It's no coincidence that this new culture is also threatening the Beltway journalistic establishment that celebrated Mr. Rove's invincibility well past its expiration date (much as it did James Carville's before him), extolling what Joshua Green, in his superb new Rove article in The Atlantic, calls the Cult of the Consultant. The YouTube video of Mr. Rove impersonating a rapper at one of those black-tie correspondents' dinners makes the Washington press corps look even more antediluvian than he is.

Last weekend's Iowa straw poll was a more somber but equally anachronistic spectacle. Again, it's a young conservative commentator, Ryan Sager, writing in The New York Sun, who put it best: "The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he's little more than Jesus Christ's running mate."

That face, at once contemptuous and greedy and self-righteous, is Karl Rove's face. Unless someone in his party rolls out a revolutionary new product, it is indelible enough to serve as the Republican brand for a generation.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Um, hello. You are a copyright violator.

Anonymous said...

Um...fuck off!!

Anonymous said...

Very clever use of the English language in your response, esp. for a Times editorial fan!

If you wouldn't steal a copy of the Times from your local newsstand, you shouldn't steal web-based content from Times Select. As the previous post stated, you are a copyright violator.

Anonymous said...

Um... I guess I shouldn't be "stealing" it from the local library either...

There is a niche being served here. Frank Rich and the NYT are being benefited more than harmed. Their OPINIONS are being promulgated for free. I would simply suggest to this blogger that he/she wait 24 hrs to post.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be too concerned about all that. For what it's worth, I found this place when a post at Think Progress by Elliot Spitzer linked here. Everything here is available all over the web within minutes of the times updating their site. All manner of bloggers pull columns, Truthout posts Herbert and Rich regularly. Just do a Technorati search and you can read them all, pretty much. All this place is doing is putting them in one place, and no one is making money, there are no ads, no donation buttons, nothing like that. And besides all that, supposedly the wall is coming down.

And as to the comment that this place probably does more good than harm - I had never really read the Times much, I am from a rural area where it wasn't delivered. Now I can get it, and because I found the stuff here, I bought a weekend subscription. So on balance, I think the public service claim is valid.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reposting, and for your whole site. Screw the Times.

newManifesto said...

keep on posting those columns

screw the anonymous and the times

Lorraine said...

cheap wedding gowns
discount bridal gowns
China wedding dresses
discount designer wedding dresses
China wedding online store
plus size wedding dresses
cheap informal wedding dresses
junior bridesmaid dresses
cheap bridesmaid dresses
maternity bridesmaid dresses
discount flower girl gowns
cheap prom dresses
party dresses
evening dresses
mother of the bride dresses
special occasion dresses
cheap quinceanera dresses
hot red wedding dresses

Anonymous said...

Replica Handbags
Fake Handbags
Knockoff Handbags

Replica Louis Vuitton Handbags
Replica Gucci Handbags
Replica Chanel Handbags
Prada Handbags
Replica Fendi Handbags
Replica Dolce Gabbana Handbags
Replica Chloe Handbags
Replica Jimmy Choo Handbags
Replica Thomas Wylde Handbags
Replica MiuMiu Handbags

Replica Balenciaga Handbags
Replica Coach Handbags
Replica Lancel Handbags
Replica Hermes Handbags
Replica Marc Jacobs Handbags
Replica Anya Hindmarch Handbags
Replica YSL Handbags
Replica Mulberry Handbags
Replica Givenchy Handbags
Replica Valentino Handbags
Replica Versace Handbags
Replica Cartier Handbags
Replica Marni Handbags
Replica Bottega Veneta Handbags
Replica Loewe Handbags
Replica Kooba Handbags

Replica Bally Handbags
Replica Burberry Handbags
Replica Christian Dior Handbags
Replica Juicy Couture Handbags
Replica Ferragamo Handbags
Replica Celine Handbags

Anonymous said...

low-priced flights to canada
price right hotels
shirdi caravanserai booking
dr enclosure
airlines job merit
find cheap hotel
profession savoir faire
booking mention
bsi inn booking
lowest prices on hotels
top district accommodation
haven fairy housing
seniors protection
aqui es hotel
daylesford change
bsi new zealand pub booking system
lavasa hotel booking
hotel stelle
bed confarreation prices
box programs
nicest online hotel booking
cheap seattle hotels
base company in bulgaria
cheap vancouver hotels
cheap ancestry alarms

dfadf said...

Microsoft Office
Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010
Office 2010 key
Office 2010 download
Office 2010 Professional
Microsoft outlook
Outlook 2010
Windows 7
Microsoft outlook 2010

Anonymous said...

New codes club player online casino
free spins new casino online
all casino no deposit bonus
problems online gambling statistics
online bingo casino gambling
ameristar casinos
world full no deposit online casino
Coupon codes online casino
second no keep casino largesse codes
New online no deposit casino
no deposit online casino listings usa
river palms & casino laughlin nevada
gambling software
indiana legalized gambling
michigan national constantly sweepstake
card casino debit online sterling
gambling debts bankruptcy
liberated resourceless bingo cards
casino slot machine online win
prediction gambling
online texas holdem game
gambling systems
french lick online casino
kansas lottery results
australia online casino gambling
is offshore gambling legal
plus riche jeu de poker en ligne
free online casino games
slotplus online casino
book blackjack
best casino gambling online site
moes black jack gambling
saarbrĐîcken daily photo: casino restaurant

Anonymous said...

casino casino bet online casino
gambling online casinos
foxwoods casino seating sea-chart
internet gambling legal not missouri
boat gambling
jackpot reception job gismo service nonsense
Free chip online casinos
best casino online pay
sports betting procedure
real online grand casino gambling
Online casino gambling bonus
nationwide lottery snug harbor comfortable uk
fgree online slots casinos
Online casino slot bonus
lottery results massachusetts
no deposit us online casino
slot machine online casino features
purchase drawing winnings
free casino style online slot games
Palace Chance online casino no deposit bonus
free bingo card template
Bonus casino deposit online slot
real online casinos
hard rock casino florida
bonus casino online play
gambling merchant account online casino
plus riche jeu de poker en ligne
Instant nodeposit online casinos
highest payout online casino
rules direction blackjack
gambling age foxwoods
texas hold poker online casino tournament
horseshoe casino hammond slot percentage

Anonymous said...

riviera online casino golden
secure gambling
up date york casinos
legal usa online casinos
New online casino bonus
california raffle scratchers
free online casino money storm slot
netherlands antilles jurisdiction online casinos
federal onus illinois lottery winnings
silver dollar online casino
palace chance online casino complaints
opening machine sounds
casino price guide free online
illegal sports gambling
lotto super 7 victorious numbers
western union online casinos
USA online casino sites
playtech dazzle casinon
online ordering casino gaming poker slots
Online casino free bonus
mohegan sun casino
free games online casino
legal usa online casinos
washington state lotto results
real online grand casino gambling
online casino free chips
tournoi poker deauville
slot machine gambling
betroyal online casino
learn blackjack
pure slot online casino
legitimate online gambling
online casinos e-gold deposit