Friday, June 24, 2005

Department of Changing the Subject: The latest Rove smear 

Think it's ugly now? You ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Granted, about the only thing the Republican party is good at is politics, but that, they do awesomely well. Tactically, and strategically. And their presiding genius is Karl "The Man-Grub" Rove (back, and put your drink down first. Though I have to admit Bush is pretty good too. If you read the transcripts, and forget everything you know about the man, he sounds great. Down home, and all that.)

Anyhow, it looks like we're seeing the rollout of a new Rovian communications strategy. So let's connect a few dots:

Dot one: Rove, ripping a page from the winger playbook in '30s Germany, is setting the Democrats up for the ol' stab in the back theory: "The Democrats stabbed the Army in the back!" [That's the translation of "...certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals." Yep, it's the liberals who sent the troops to Iraq without body armor, yessir.]

That's why Dick Durbin got savaged; and he just happened to be the target of opportunity on that particular day. If it hadn't been Durbin, it would have been somebody else. (Showing, if it needed to be shown, the folly of apologizing to the Republicans for anything. It never does any good, and it makes us look weak.)

If this meme gets traction, when we withdraw, and when Iraq collapses, or splits up, it won't be Bush's fault (and how could it be, since He has been divinely appointed to rule over us?). No, it will be the Democrats' fault. Never mind that the war, if it could have been won, was Bush's to win, and he blew it. Starting with the troop levels and going on through the lack of postwar planning to today. But never mind—"The Democrats stabbed the Army in the back!"

Dot two: Iraq President Ibrahim Jafari's visit to Washington this week. More of the usual. Juan Cole writes:

Every time the interim leader of Iraq has a photo op with US officials, he seems to feel a need to say all kinds of unrealistically optimistic things. It used to happen with the rotating presidency of the Interim Governing Council. Izzedin Salim went on saying optimistic things right up until he was killed while waiting on the Marines to let him into the Green Zone. Allawi came and said that the problems were only in four provinces (he didn't mention that one of them was Baghdad).

Now Jaafari is saying that progress is being made against what he calls "the terrorists," and that all that is necessary is an acceleration of the training of Iraqi troops (with maybe some other countries than the US helping [NATO already is].)

Most observers I know of who know anything serious about military training don't expect an effective Iraqi army to be stood up for five to ten years, so if Jaafari thinks there is a quick fix in this regard, he is just wrong.
(via Informed Comment)

So, if we don't stay in Iraq for five to ten years—with what Army?—then what? Nothing good. But that will never be Bush's fault. And how could it be? Everyone knows the Republicans are strong on defense! We would have won, if it hadn't been for the liberal traitors in our midst! "The Democrats stabbed the Army in the back!"

Dot three: Bush's upcoming speech on Iraq, at a military base, naturally. WaPo reads the Republican entrails as follows:

Bush's remarks were a preface to a major prime-time speech he plans to give Tuesday evening from Fort Bragg, N.C. His challenge is to reframe the Iraq debate, in order to maintain public tolerance for an open-ended military commitment at a time when polls suggest patience is dwindling.
(via WaPo)

And look for Bush to tell the Army—You guessed it!—"The Democrats stabbed you in the back!" He'll use nicer-sounding words than Rove, but dollars to donuts that will be the message.

I think Bush has decided he's got to cut his losses before 2006. Because things are going to get very, very bad for him quite soon—if He can't manage to change the subject. Robert Steinback (thank you, Knight Ridder) has an excellent editorial about the wave of shit moving, ever so slowly, toward the fan:

Do you want to know?

That's the only popular division that matters in the United States today: Those who want to determine once and for all if President Bush knowingly ``fixed the facts'' regarding Iraq, thereby misleading Congress and the American people into supporting an unnecessary war, and those who will cover their ears and hum loudly in order to maintain their belief that Bush and his advisors remain above reproach.

You're in one camp or the other. Either you want to know if you've been lied to, or you don't.

The American public is inching tentatively toward a reckoning unlike any this nation has ever experienced. The oh-so-clever Bush administration strategists and their quasi-media acolytes, who have kept the reckoning at bay with a deft combination of we're-at-war patriotic fervor and fear-the-evil-liberals rhetoric, are running out of parlor tricks.

Do you want to know if the president's people misled America into war? Conservative pundits are trying desperately to jump-start the sputtering media-distraction machinery that worked so well during Bush's first term.

But I get the sense this strategy isn't working as reliably as it once did. Even the Michael Jackson trial hype fizzled quickly after the verdict. The president's poll numbers have plummeted since Nov. 2, suggesting more and more Americans are tiring of the bluster and blather that had entertained them like an endless summer action flick.

I never hear anymore from the conservative readers who once admonished me for not trusting that Bush had secret intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. Or who said the British wouldn't have joined us if the case for war wasn't solid. Or who insulted the French and Germans for not going along with the madness.

I do miss those spirited exchanges. But if it means that at long last, a reckoning is under way, I'll manage.
(via Fort Wayne Tribune Sentinel)

Indeed. Welcome to the reality-based community.

But Rove and Bush only know one way to play: Play dirty, and play to the base. Losing a war? Change the subject. "The Democrats stabbed the Army in the back!"

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