published by Heads Magazine, Toronto
Rove, America's top kingmaker is a college drop-out,
a former consultant to big tobacco giant Philip Morris,
a self-taught historian and George W. Bush's brain.
He doesn't blink. He doesn't hesitate before the kill.
If not for Rove, and if not for his ruthlessness, the
hapless preppie George W. Bush would not be in the White
is a burly, folksy character. During the primary season,
he persistently took control of television discussions.
When challenged by the McCain camp on his unethical
campaigning, Rove turned the tables. Piece by piece,
week after week, he took apart John McCain in the media,
and then went on television and shifted the blame onto
McCain's staff. Soon, the public was left with an image
of McCain as as hot-tempered, war-damaged veteran. McCain's
underdog groundswell for a campaign finance reform was
scuttled by Karl Rove.
HISTORY of DIRTY TRICKS
Rove got his start in politics when he ran for president
of the College Republicans, and met Lee Atwater in 1972.
Shortly afterward Rove was investigated by the Republican
National Committee for teaching political campaign "dirty
tricks" to college students. Young George W. Bush worked
with Atwater and Rove to create the Willie Horton scandal
that scuttled Dukakis in 1988. After Atwater died of
brain cancer, Rove and Bush went on to blindside the
popular Democratic incumbent Ann Richards in the 1994
Texas governor's race. Rove carried on the strategy
from Atwater: scare-tactics, shocking TV ads and personal
attacks. Rove minimized Bush's public appearances and
limited the spontaneous public speaking of the tongue-tied
Bush, a tactic Rove reprised in the recent race for
President. Rove used Governor Bush's re-election campaign
in 1998 as an opportunity to launch Bush's White House
career. Democrat Gary Mauro was a weak target, but Rove
needed a landslide to create the impression of a racially-diverse,
popular mandate. He and Bush campaigned hard to decimate
an already weak opponent and win the support of minorities
usually hostile to the right wing agenda.
claimed that Bush's popularity among Latinos was proof
that a Compassionate Conservative could "erase the gender
gap, open the doors of the Republican Party to new faces
and new voices, and win without sacrificing principles."
Bush won almost 50% of all Hispanic votes, according
to his own "fuzzy math."
Bush machine trumpeted that Bush had created "political
history," with 49% of the Hispanic vote, and 27% of
the black vote, citing the exit poll conducted by Voter
News Service of New York. However, a co-designer of
the Voter News Service survey, political scientist Bob
Stein, said that the actual data on Bush's Hispanic
vote was somewhere between "the high 30s and low 40s."
He said Bush's percentage among black voters was probably
in the low 20s. The Willie Velasquez Institute in San
Antonio's exit poll showed Bush got 39%, and a local
El Paso poll, conducted by a professor at the University
of Texas, showed Bush with 37% of Hispanic voters. When
the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram called the Bush campaign
with questions about this discrepancy, they were referred
to the "governor's consultant," Karl Rove. The paper
glumly stated, "Attempts to reach Rove were unsuccessful."
what point did the Republicans change from being the
starched old white men of golf courses and martinis
to the merciless, tech-savvy, media manipulators? After
eight years of Bill Clinton, the Republicans were eager
for blood, and a change in tactics was badly needed.
For Campaign 2000, Marxist-turned-Reaganite David Horowitz
handed the Republicans a little book called The Art
of Political War, which claimed that the Left had a
monopoly on strategy, aggression and tactics. The Republican
Party would not reclaim the White House until they crushed
their opponent with the mercilessness of total war.
Rove adopted the book as his own political Bible.
wrote The Art of Political War to call on Republicans
to create a politics that appealed to the masses: the
working families, gays, unions, etc. Karl Rove praised
The Art of Political War as indispensible and
provided the cover blurb. ("A perfect pocket guide to
winning on the political battlefield"-Karl Rove") It
is recognized today as the genesis of "Compassionate
Conservatism" and is used nation-wide by the Republican
Party Chairs in 32 states. Horowitz took what he learned
in the late sixties, and put it in the service of the
same people he once referred to as "pigs." [footnote:
Radical Son, pp. TK also, for legalization advocates:
note that as recently as this 1997 memoir, Horowitz
recalls his brief use of cannabis in the late 60's as
"the experience was seductive-but I remained skittish."]
Certain fundamentals of Horowitz's politics have remained
the same througout his time: politics is war by other
means, and one thing you can rely on in America is that
people tend to root for the underdog. But since only
10% of the country identifies themselves as "hard Republicans,"
Horowitz realized that the right-wing agenda would be
unpalatable to the majority, unless it was wrapped in
a different package.
Conservatism was born, a new brand indentity for the
intolerance, fear and hate of the right-wing. Karl Rove
became the salesman and Bush was the fun and fuzzy mascot.
Rove is the perfect salesman: a ballsy top dog who swaggers
like the old Texan he is. He used the language of the
people to promote his candidate with maximum aggression.
He understood that the agenda was to promote inclusiveness,
and openness, at least until the White House is taken.
Rove is known for discipline and hard-right ideological
rigor. Yet, he is also known to burst spontaneously
into song. Like Bush, he speaks in the common tongue.
On the television discussions of the campaign, he would
taunt his McCainite opponents, calling them "Man." His
salty use of late 60's youth culture slang obscures
the fact that he's a leading conservative. He shrinks
at the dynamism and inclusive energy of modern thought.
When asked what political writers he is most influenced
by, he states Myron Magnet, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and
James Q. Wilson. Over the course of the campaign, George
W. Bush also made somewhat dubious claims to have read
Myron Magnet. But was this just a rote answer handed
him by his senior advisor?
in his book, The Dream and the Nightmare, states that
the late 60's counterculture was a huge social disaster
because it set a bad example for the underclass. The
hippies encouraged indulgence and laziness instead of
the virtues of hard work and competition. Yet, Bush
doesn't seem to have the same harsh memories of the
60's. On Newshour with Jim Lehrer on April, 27th, 2000,
Bush seemed to not quite understand what Magnet could
have been talking about. Bush spoke about "responsible
behavior" being the legacy and the political consciousness
of the 60's. As Mark Crispin Miller points out in his
excellent The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National
Disorder (coming out this June from Norton), Bush stated,
"I'm a strong candidate because I come from the baby
boomer generation recognizing that we've got to usher
in an era of responsible behavior."
Crispin Miller writes "that inversion of the Myron Magnet
thesis was the opposite of what Bush had meant to say-and
what he did say all the time." Perhaps. Or perhaps Bush's
memories of the 60's were a lot of pot and cocaine,
so much so that a theory based on hate just didn't compare.
more on David Horowitz, see Sanderhicks.com's confrontational
feature on him, here >>
the media stumbled upon a story regarding George W.
Bush's 1972 cocaine possession arrest, Rove had to find
a way to kill the story. He did so by destroying the
culture biographer J.H. Hatfield was on hand, traveling
in and out of Texas at the time, interviewing Rove and
other Bush aides to research the premier Bush biography
"Lone Star Rising." The book that was later titled Fortunate
Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President,
a more critical title that reflects its turbulent publishing
history. One of Hatfield's acquaintances and primary
sources was longtime Bush friend and schoolmate, Clay
Johnson, a longtime Dallas businessman. When Hatfield
was convicted of a felony in the late 80's, its
likely Johnson learned of it. When Hatfield approached
them to research Bush, the Bush campaign already had
the upper hand by knowing Hatfields felony record:
a perfect way to discredit all stories of Bush's drug
past. In October 1999, St. Martin's published Fortunate
Son amidst a lot of buzz and hope of positive attention
from major media. However, St. Martin's was hit with
a one-two punch. First, the New York Times refused
to give the book the coverage St. Martins was
counting on. So, St. Martin's dragged Hatfield into
a meeting and leaned on him to reveal the confidential
Bush campaign sources that told him the cocaine story.
Fearing retribution, and honoring his journalistic code,
Hatfield refused. Then, St. Martin's learned that the
Dallas Morning News was about to break news about
Hatfield's felony record. The Bush Campaign began to
publicly make legal threats against the book, and the
media uproar about Hatfield's felony record killed the
book, and the cocaine story.
than 70,000 copies of Fortunate Son were withdrawan.
"They're heat! Furnace fodder!" snapped the vitriolic
St. Martin's Vice President Sally J. Richardson. The
media focus shifted from reporting on Hatfield's Bush
story to loud, loose talk about Hatfield's felony. The
major media tended to sing the same chorus: "How ironic,
this Hatfield character who was involved in a dirty
plot to kill his boss in 1987 is trying to verify these
rumors about young Bush being arrested for cocaine possession
in 1972. But this story couldn't be true, of course,
since Hatfield's a criminal...right?"
borrowed one of the rare, repossessed copies of the
book from a friend and read it on a bus trip. I traveled
with a pack of sticky notes and hit every page with
something relevant and newsworthy and under-reported
about Bushs past. Pretty soon, the book overflowed
with the edges of sticky notes poking out like the feathers
of a peacock. Bush dodged the draft, was a C student
at Yale, lost a lot of other people's money in boom
times in the Texas Oil market, was investigated by the
S.E.C. for insider trading. What a garish life of special
favors, what a clear colorful pattern of cut corners,
what blurry values. I came back to New York and maneuvered
my company, Soft Skull Press, Inc. to step in and acquire
the rights to the book.
Hatfield was in hiding. The tabloids were after him.
Camera crews camped on his front lawn for two weeks.
The phone rang off the hook. They all wanted to know
who the confidential sources were who fed him the story,
but Hatfield stuck to his journalist code. His sources
were confidential. They had talked to him under condition
of anonyminity. But J.H. Hatfield, our man in Arkansas,
was coming to New York.
months after the bloody October of Hatfields public
destruction, it was a crisp sunny winter day in New
York City. Although Hatfield had the flu, he taped his
portion of 60 Minutes early in the morning, and I went
in later. Leslie Stahl, the elegant host of the program,
had pointedly asked me on tape if I knew the sources.
I said no, but that Hatfield had promised to reveal
them to me.
the taping, we walked through the Lower East Side. I
had taken Hatfield and his lawyer, and my coworker to
lunch at a Chinese restaurant. I needed to hold Jim
Hatfield to his promise to share the sources with me;
I needed to see the phone and travel records. I needed
to know the whole thing wasn't a big sick joke. I needed
to be 100% sure. My gut had me already believing in
Jim Hatfield. He believed in what we were doing. He
stood behind all his research. He admired me for making
a maverick decision, and attempting to redeem his battered
stopped on the corner of Ludlow and Rivington and turned
to me in the bright light. His hands were stuffed deep
into the pockets of his Navy peacoat. He looked tired,
but determined. He looked down the street.
got to take this information with you to your grave.
You've got to swear."
swore not to repeat it to anyone. I also knew that the
truth is bigger than one person. We would both choose
to reveal the sources publicly when the time was right,
when we had no other choice. When we no longer had anything
left to lose.
Eufaula Connection? That was Karl Rove. The other top
Bush advisor was Clay Johnson. The Bush confidante,
was his minister, Mayfield. Now you know. Remember,
youve got to swear now...."
RACE IS NOT TO THE SWIFT
February 2000, McCain was gaining on Bush in terms of
charisma, message and experience. His promises of campaign
finance reform struck a chord nationwide, and on the
first of February, 2000, he blew Bush away in the New
Hampshire primary. McCain defeated the New York Republican
Party establishment in the courts, and forced the Bush-loyal
party bosses to put him on the ballot for the upcoming
New York primary. Bush appeared at the rightwing Bob
Jones University, in an attempt to get his campaign
back on track by appealling to the party's extreme right.
Showing his true colors as a politician, McCain's campaign
desperately phoned Catholic voters with a recorded message
that implied Bush was anti-Catholic by association with
the pope-haters at Bob Jones University.
his acrimony on television, Rove knew that McCain's
manueveurs were the desperate acts of a campaign in
its death throes: Bush would sweep all major primaries
from here on in, and take the Republican Nomination
in July. By the end of February, Rove was homing in
on Gore. By the end of February, New Hampshire was in
the distant past. Rumors were circulating (from who
knows where?) that McCain was a bit crazy and had a
bad temper from being a P.O.W. in Viet Nam.
Gore clearly had Bush beat on experience, intelligence
and gravitas. While Bush had lost $371 million of other
people's money in bad investments and bankrupt oil companies,
Gore had served as a Senator and later a Vice President.
While Texas had the worst air pollution of any state,
Gore was a moderate interested in developing new energy
alternatives. Part of Rove's strategy was to trip the
cumbersome Gore up on petty questions about Gore's minor
factual errors. Instead of attacking Bush, Gore spent
time countering minor barbs about whether he had lied
in statements about inventing the Internet or attending
a Texas fire disaster site. Perhaps this shows that
Gore didn't have as shrewd a top strategist. While the
Democrats watched polls and tried to create a likeable,
casual personality for their stiff candidate, Rove kept
harping on Gore's for being "a serial exaggerator" and
kept Gore in the stereotype of an uncoordinated egghead.
On October 8 with both campaigns slinging mud feverishly,
Rove went on NBC's "Meet the Press," and accused Gore
of being "a man who has difficulty telling the truth.
He constantly exaggerates and embellishes."
strategy of disinformation follows the pattern set by
all masters of public opinion of the 20th Century. Rove
is the kingmaker. He is the man behind the man. Today,
he works in the White House, in a job invented just
for him: the Office of Strategic Initiatives. What does
that mean? It means anything Mr. Rove wants it to mean.