In One Eye

Friday, July 15, 2005
Both Kevin Drum and Krugman discuss the moral vacuity of Karl Rove and his boss.

From Drum:
To understand just how reckless and venomous Rove's actions were, let's take a trip down memory lane. The year is 1960. John F. Kennedy was running against Richard Nixon for the presidency and making much electoral hay over the "missile gap," a supposed disparity between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the quantity and quality of ballistic missiles at our disposal. The Reds, Kennedy claimed, were kicking our butts, and he promised to fix this pronto if he was elected president.

Except for one thing: there was no missile gap. What's more, Kennedy had received top secret briefings from the Pentagon and knew this. Did that stop him from talking about it? Not at all. It was one of the big issues of the campaign.

Richard Nixon lost that election by a hair, and public perception of the missile gap was probably one of the reasons. Despite that, he never revealed — either publicly or privately — the classified information about Soviet capabilities that could have saved his campaign.

Think about that. This is Richard Nixon we're talking about. His opponent was spreading clear misinformation that he knew to be untrue. And there was a presidential election at stake!

Even so, he kept classified information classified and went down to defeat. Maybe this was because he took national security seriously or maybe it was just because he was too smart to use classified information in a pissing match. Who knows? By contrast, when Karl Rove was faced with a trivial piece of unfriendly spin that had no major consequences for anyone, his first instinct was to systematically call half a dozen reporters and peddle classified information to them even though he didn't need to. With no apparent qualms at all, he did something that even Richard Nixon with an election on the line wasn't willing to do.

Welcome to the leadership of the modern Republican party. Who would have thought that one day the White House would be run by someone who made Richard Nixon look responsible and forbearing?
And from Krugman:
What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern ...

Mr. Rove [has always] understood that the facts were irrelevant. For one thing, he knew he could count on the administration's supporters to obediently accept a changing story line. Read the before-and-after columns by pro-administration pundits about Iraq: before the war they castigated the C.I.A. for understating the threat posed by Saddam's W.M.D.; after the war they castigated the C.I.A. for exaggerating the very same threat.

Mr. Rove also understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don't have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person's effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they'll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.

And now we know just how far he was willing to go with these smear tactics: as part of the effort to discredit Joseph Wilson IV, Mr. Rove leaked the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A. I don't know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there's no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason ...

Ultimately, this isn't just about Mr. Rove. It's also about Mr. Bush, who has always known that his trusted political adviser - a disciple of the late Lee Atwater, whose smear tactics helped President Bush's father win the 1988 election - is a thug, and obviously made no attempt to find out if he was the leaker.

Most of all, it's about what has happened to America. How did our political system get to this point?
And as I said in a recent post, the real problem is that many Americans—and I'm sorry to say that I know more than a few—buy into this crap.

A few years ago, when Kevin Drum was still blogging as CalPundit, he reported a conversation he had with his wife wherein she opined that she was no longer completely comfortable in the US that the country was becoming. In Krugman's column we pretty much see how this kind of discomfort has come to pass.