Sunday, August 19, 2007


If Rove attacked Kerry because they were afraid Edwards' good looks and intelligence would be dangerous for Bush and made the Democrats rally to protect Kerry, then Rove's attack on Clinton means he still thinks Edwards is too smart for the next Republican to run against? Or is he doing a reverse reverse feint and we're supposed to support Clinton because Rove really wants Edwards but... uh...
Why did Rove, who often stays in the background, step forward to deliver such public attacks -- especially when the Democrats haven't begun to choose their presidential candidate for 2008 and when the general election is more than a year away?

The answer might seem obvious: Rove saw Clinton as a formidable opponent and wanted to get his licks in early.

For high-level campaign professionals like Rove, however, that kind of thinking may be too simple.
The decision to focus on the New York senator to the exclusion of other potentially formidable Democratic standard-bearers such as Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois offered a rare glimpse into a world where things are not always what they seem -- the world of modern-day electioneering, whose denizens often prefer going from A to B by way of Z.

In this case, Rove's weeklong broadside against Clinton -- which he is expected to repeat in multiple appearances on television talk shows today -- looks suspiciously like an exercise in reverse psychology that his team employed three years ago when it was preparing for President Bush's reelection bid.

The ploy was described by Rove lieutenant Matthew Dowd during a postmortem conference on the 2004 election at Harvard University the month after Bush defeated Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.

In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when it was not yet clear who Bush's opponent would be that November, Rove and his aides had begun to fear that their most dangerous foe would be then-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

With his Southern base, charismatic style and populist message, Edwards, they believed, could be a real threat to Bush's reelection.

But instead of attacking Edwards, Rove's team opened fire at Kerry.

Their thinking went like this, Dowd explained: Democrats, in a knee-jerk reaction to GOP attacks, would rally around Kerry, whom Rove considered a comparatively weak opponent, and make him the party's nominee. Thus Bush would be spared from confronting Edwards, the candidate Republican strategists actually feared most.

Unlike Kerry, who had been in public service for decades, Edwards was a political newcomer and lacked a long record that could be attacked. And, unlike former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who had been the front-runner but whose campaign was collapsing in Iowa, Edwards couldn't easily be painted as "nutty."

If that sounds implausibly convoluted, consider Dowd's own words:

"Whomever we attacked was going to be emboldened in Democratic primary voters' minds.

"So we started attacking John Kerry a lot in the end of January because we were very worried about John Edwards," Dowd said. "And we knew that if we focused on John Kerry, Democratic primary voters would sort of coalesce" around Kerry.

"It wasn't like we could tag [eliminate] somebody. Whomever we attacked was going to be helped," he said.

Nicolle Wallace, the 2004 Bush campaign communications director, recalled at the Harvard conference that the campaign "refused" to even respond to Edwards' attacks on Bush, not wanting to make him seem like a threat.

Edwards was selected as Kerry's running mate and now is vying with Clinton and Obama for their party's 2008 nomination.

Is Rove playing a similar game against Clinton? Is he trying to stampede Democrats into nominating her, having concluded that Obama, Edwards or someone else would pose a stiffer challenge to the Republican nominee?
Or are both cups poisoned and Rove is just waiting for us to psych ourselves out.....

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mapaghimagsik said...

And never get involved in a land war in asia!

ellroon said...

LOL!! Excellent! I had forgotten that wonderful line!

Anonymous said...

I have long believed that the Republicans are in favor of Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic nomination in 2008. From the fact that she has received campaign support from such as Rupert Murdoch, and the continuing Republican fixation on her makes me think they either believe they have her number or can manipulate public opinion more effectively against her than other Democratic candidates like John Edwards. They cannot address John Edwards on the merits of his candidacy, only his hair, it seems.

Anonymous said...

How about, Wormtongue is just as big a misogynist as the rest of his party?

Attacking women energizes the base.

ellroon said...

All of the above. Is Al Gore running yet?

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Al Gore is much better not to make every other candidate hate him. He might be "better" than some of them in some ways, but he can do a whole lot without being president.

ellroon said...

I hear you, whig. But I am so tired of all this political verbiage. What happened to statesmen?

Anonymous said...

Statesmen? What are statesmen? Maybe it's something that existed before my time.

I was born in the Nixon era, 1971.

Anonymous said...

I guess Jimmy Carter would be an elder statesman, but he's marginalized and a defeated political figure.

Anonymous said...

Al Gore may be a statesman, in fact.

ellroon said...

Jefferson... Washington... Adams... Lincoln.. Roosevelt... Why do these men stand above the rest?

A statesman to me is one who is an intellect and can see both the big picture and the small details. One who has wisdom and not feral cleverness. One who is not partisan.

One who loves his country above his party.