Rove is more than a master manipulator of the news media. He’s a stealthy smear artist who does whatever he can get away with. And Rove has gotten away with plenty. That’s how George W. Bush became governor of Texas … and president of the United States. What remains to be seen is whether Rove’s techniques will again prove successful when this country votes on Nov. 2.
Yes, lots of campaigns routinely trash the foe — and puff up the fair-haired boy or girl as the wondrous alternative to disaster.
More than anything else, the most important added advantage that Karl Rove has this time around is incumbency. He was working for challengers when, as “Bush’s Brain” sketches out, he engaged in dirty tricks against two governors running for re-election in Texas. And he didn?t have access to the levers of White House power when his man defeated Al Gore in 2000. Now, Rove’s capacity to make some huge things happen (with a prudent degree or two of separation) is greatly enhanced.
Now, it’s a safe bet that the two months between the end of the2004 Republican National Convention and Election Day will be the nastiest stretch drive in modern presidential politics. Campaigns have always strived to win, but the top strategist behind the Bush-Cheney ticket is something else. Just ask some Texas politicians — like former Gov. Mark White and former Gov. Ann Richards. Or ask former Sen. Max Cleland.
A couple of decades ago, Lee Atwater was a mentor to Karl Rove. And it could not have escaped Rove’s attention that Atwater helped to craft the Willie Horton commercial — utilizing lies about Michael Dukakis’ record as governor of Massachusetts, appealing to racism and providing a boost to victory for George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election.
It’s not enough to provide stenographic services for candidates and campaign strategists. Journalism is supposed to dig for truth and bring it to light. But in the real world, activists need to demand that mainstream media outlets stop evading and start exposing deception in real time.
Norman Solomon is co-author, with Reese Erlich, of “Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You.” His columns and other writings can be found at