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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Oh, Shut Up, Karl!

Many years ago, when the late Howard Cosell was ubiquitous in American sports journalism, I used to shout at his image on the television a lot (particularly during the brief period when he was unwisely deployed to do broadcasts of baseball, a sport he did not understand or even like). “Oh, shut up, Howard!” I’d often say in response to one of his pomposities or non sequiturs.
I’m beginning to feel the same way every time Karl Rove shows up in print or on the tube. Put aside, if you can, partisan feelings about the man, who pioneered so many of the conservative tactics that have had a baleful effect on the political system during his entire career. He also ought to be a pariah to Republicans, particularly now that they’ve decided his signature swing-vote-baiting policy initiatives–comprehensive immigration reform, No Child Left Behind, and the Medicare Rx Drug program–were actually satanic, and the reason Republicans lost the 2006 and 2008 elections.
Instead, he’s everywhere, spinning madly. The latest travesty is a Wall Street Journal column entitled: “Why Obama Is Likely To Lose in 2012.” The title isn’t the problem, but the “evidence” this supposed wizard of American politics offers in its defense is cheesy in the extreme. There’s a whole section where Rove asserts, without a spot of proof, that Obama’s in big trouble with Jewish voters (part, of course, of the GOP effort to paint Obama as some sort of Hamas-lover), and then races off into speculation about the potential impact in Florida. And then there’s this passage:

Mr. Obama’s standing has declined among other, larger groups. Gallup reported his job approval rating Tuesday at 45%, down from 67% at his inaugural. Among the groups showing a larger-than-average decline since 2009 are whites (down 25 points); older voters (down 24); independents and college graduates (both down 23), those with a high-school education or less, men, and Southerners (all down 22); women (down 21 points); married couples and those making $2,000-$4,000 a month (down 20). This all points to severe trouble in suburbs and midsized cities in states likes Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
There’s more. Approval among younger voters has dropped 22 points, and it’s dropped 20 points among Latinos. Even African-American voters are less excited about Mr. Obama than they were–and than he needs them to be.

All sounds pretty scary, right? Unless you notice that Rove is comparing the president’s current approval ratings to those he enjoyed at his inaugural, that universal honeymoon moment which is absolutely meaningless in terms of any president’s reelection. Lord knows there’s enough negative data out there to cast doubt on Obama’s re-election prospects; why does Rove feel the need to grossly exaggerate it?
Ah, but Rove’s shamelessness is limitless, viz. this incredibly hypocritical piece of pious nonsense:

Finally, Mr. Obama has made a strategic blunder. While he needs to raise money and organize, he decided to be a candidate this year rather than president. He has thus unnecessarily abandoned one of incumbency’s great strengths, which is the opportunity to govern and distance himself from partisan politics until next spring. Instead, Team Obama has attacked potential GOP opponents and slandered Republican proposals with abandon. This is not what the public is looking for from the former apostle of hope and change.

It’s bad enough that Rove has completely and with malice aforethought mischaracterized the partisan dynamics of Washington at present–one in which the president continues to chase Republicans around the Capitol in search of someone with whom to negotiate in a pack of pols who constantly describe him as an incompetent socialist knave. But it’s particularly rich coming from the man who turned the policy apparatus of the Bush administration into an all-politics, all-the-time exercise, as so perfectly captured by former White House staffer John DiUilio is his 2003 description of the Rove-dominated team as “the Mayberry Machiavellis.”
Please, Karl, spare us the moralizing, or just shut up.

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