Karl Rove is a genius
Tomorrow is Election Day, and before it all goes down, before a victor is declared (which probably won't happen tomorrow), before we get the final spin from the final spin doctor, I want to say that Karl Rove is a genius. Through a carefully crafted media image, a brilliant spin strategy and a campaign of solid disinformation he has managed to turn a failed executive into an economic guru, a son of privilege into a populist folk hero, the scion of a wealthy New England blue blood family with deep ancestral roots into a symbol of resistance to the East Coast elite (according to Tom Wolfe in the most recent guardian), a draft dodger into a war hero, a crony of the rich and powerful into "one of the guys." It has been a masterful job of image creation.
Using the raw materials he was given which, let's face it, were pretty good to begin with--Bush, no matter how the liberals like to paint him is smart, committed, resolute and folksy--and molded it into a president. Rove's strategy has had several parts.
1) Limit media access to the president. He is not very good when faced with a probing question, so let his press people handle interviews, building a mystique around the president.
2) Baseball: it is America's game, and Bush's baseball credentials are unimpeachable. Ok, so the Rangers didn't win when he owned them, but he is a true fan of the game. Throw out a few first pitches, be interviewed by baseball people (who won't ask him about the deficit), and make him known to the fans as one of them. Do the same with NASCAR. He doesn't really have any stock car credentials, but he does have a southern accent. Nearly all the drivers are going to vote for him, as are many of the fans, play this connection for all it is worth. There is nothing more folksy then a good old boy turning left all day long.
3) Put the president in a flight suit and make him look butch.
4) Attack: always be on the offensive. This Bush's professed strategy for the war on terror but it is also the Karl Rove strategy for dealing with dissent. Bush's attacks on Kerry make him look like a fighter, which is the whole point.
5) Obfuscate: negative stories will arise from time to time. It is hard to completely control the news cycle. When a negative or critical story does come out, dispatch your minions with disinformation talking points which will muddy the issues, half truths that will make people question the veracity of the negative story. Employ red herrings to distract people from negative news.
5) Attacks Ad Hominem: whenever a person presents a serious challenge, have someone attack their credibility, their patriotism, their character or their wife.
6) Warn of the slippery slope. "If John Kerry wins the Whitehouse it will embolden the terrorists." Make people believe in a ridiculous string of events that will spell disaster if one step is taken.
7) Use the Band Wagon: report how many people love the president, how popular he is, how folksy. Pound the media again and again with the idea that Bush is the most beloved president in the history of the union.
8.) Play to people's fear. Make them feel threatened by the world, by the terrorists, by John Kerry.
9.) Good Cop/Bad Cop: while the president (who, let's not forget, was a cheer leader in prep school) sticks to a mostly positive message of hope for a bright new future, send the vice president out to warn of imminent nuclear attack from terrorists.
10.) Read 1984 y George Orwell. Read it again. Read it a third time. Now use it as a manual for the administration. Build the terrorists into a shadowy undefeatable enemy who must be stopped at all costs. Scare the public into giving up their civil rights. Encourage them to spy on one another. Outlaw all forms of sex save hetero sex with the man on top. A picture of a smiling president bush over the words "Big Brother is Watching You" might be a bit much--but only a bit.
It has worked like a charm. Listen carefully to the Sunday morning talk shows and you will here Condi Rice, Colin Powell, John Ashcroft, and all sorts of low level foot soldiers in the Karl Rove army repeating exactly the same phrases over and over again. Their talking points are catchy, well thought out and they alls tick tot he script: "Flip-Flopper," "Global Test," "Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time." It filters down through the news media and into the public conversation and, even though it doesn't mean anything, influences voters.
The democrats are, currently at least, terrible at this sort of thing. Aside from James Carville (perhaps), they have no one of Karl Rove's stature as a spin doctor. He is the current master, the most astounding political mind since Lee Atwater. And if Bush wins tomorrow, it won't be because he is the better candidate or because Kerry was the worse one, it will be because Karl Rove is a genius.
And if he loses, I hope nobody remembers that I wrote this. :)