At first glance, I thought Karl Rove’s Wall Street Journal op-ed today was going to be interesting: it began with the observation that Rove had learned something about John McCain that was “politically troubling.”
Then I read the whole piece, and it turns out that Rove’s worried that John McCain doesn’t talk enough about his war record:
When it comes to choosing a president, the American people want to know more about a candidate than policy positions. They want to know about character, the values ingrained in his heart. For Mr. McCain, that means they will want to know more about him personally than he has been willing to reveal.
No, Rove’s not talking about McCain’s marriages or finances or religion or temper or relationships with lobbyists. It’s his experiences as a POW in Vietnam.
Keep in mind that McCain’s already done a “biography tour” that’s almost entirely about his and his ancestors’ military records. Most of his ads are about the “values ingrained in his heart” by same. But we’re supposed to believe that policy-saturated Americans want to know a lot more about McCain’s favorite subject “than he has been willing to reveal.”
Put aside, if you can, the irony that Rove was the chief strategist for a primary campaign (Bush 2000) that was implicated in probably the most scurrilous effort to date to to impugn McCain’s character and values.
Eight years later, Rove’s certainly justified in hoping that scrutiny of John McCain will shy away from his policy views. It kind of reminds me of an incident many years ago when a mischievous New York Times book editor recruited William F. Buckley to review a hagiographical book about his political nemesis, New York Mayor John Lindsay. Noting the abundance of photos of the ruggedly handsome mayor, Buckley observed: “If I were commissioned to write a favorable book about John Lindsay, it would consist entirely of pictures.”
And if I were commissioned to write a favorable op-ed column about John McCain, it would consist entirely of references to his military record. That seems to be Karl Rove’s opinion as well.