Over the weekend, Maureen Dowd demonstrated just how out of touch the MSM is with political reality in her column attacking Karl Rove. She cast him as a disgruntled nerd, avenging his Kennedy-era high school grievances against liberals by pandering aggressively to backward evangelicals in support of President Bush.
The truth? It’s much, much closer to Ann Coulter’s analysis last week, which was striking in its candor about Rove’s keep-the-social-conservatives-at-arm’s length strategy:
Of course, we could have done it a lot earlier on election night but for “Boy Genius” Karl Rove. It’s absurd that the election was as close as it was. The nation is at war, Bush is a magnificent wartime leader, and the night before the election we didn’t know if a liberal tax-and-spend, Vietnam War-protesting senator from Massachusetts would beat him.
If Rove is “the architect” — as Bush called him in his acceptance speech — then he is the architect of high TV ratings, not a Republican victory. By keeping the race so tight, Rove ensured that a race that should have been a runaway Bush victory would not be over until the wee hours of the morning.
As we now know, the most important issue to voters was not terrorism, but moral values. Marriage amendments won by lopsided majorities in all 11 states where they were on the ballot. Even in Oregon, the state targeted by gay marriage advocates as their best shot of defeating a marriage amendment, the amendment passed by 57 percent — a figure noticeable for being larger than the percentage of votes cast for Bush in Oregon. In the great state of Mississippi, the marriage amendment passed with 88 percent of the vote.
Seventy percent to 80 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage and partial-birth abortion. Far from appealing exclusively to a narrow Republican base, opposition to gay marriage is strongest among the Democratic base: blacks, Hispanics, blue-collar workers and the elderly. There were marriage amendments on the ballot in Michigan and Ohio. Bush won Ohio narrowly and lost Michigan by only 2 points. How different might that have been if Bush hadn’t run from the issue.
But Rove concluded Bush should stay mum on gay marriage and partial-birth abortion — contravening the politicians’ rule of thumb: Talk about your positions that are wildly popular with voters. “Boy Genius” Rove decided Bush shouldn’t even run radio ads on gay marriage, and at the last minute, Bush started claiming he was in favor of civil unions, just like John Kerry.
The most galling example of Rove’s abandonment of social conservatives was, of course, the snubbing of Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey’s bid to unseat liberal Republican Arlen Specter:
Rove (r) and Specter (l) on the campaign trail
The White House overlooked Specter’s opposition to the full Bush tax cut package, his desire to undermine the Patriot Act, his opposition to removing Bill Clinton from office, his role in the sabotage of Judge Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination, his ties to Bush-bashers George Soros and Harold Ickes, and his refusal to support conservative House candidates in the Keystone State, among other things. It was supposed to be worth sleeping with a RINO because the silver lining in re-electing Specter would be delivery of Pennsylvania for Bush. Only one of those things happened, alas, and now the GOP is in quite a quandary over whether to deny Specter the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee following his threat to veto pro-life judicial candidates.
My sentiments are with the folks at National Review Online, who are urging Republicans valiantly to relieve us of the Specter bane. But my sense is that nothing will change. President Bush’s silence on the matter so far is telling. Moreover, Bill Frist simply does not have the fire in his belly to wage this fight. And as Bob Novak points out today, Rick Santorum’s precarious campaign outlook for 2006 requires him to keep playing nicey-nice with Specter.
Looks like Snarlin’ Arlen will have the gavel in his clammy little hands come January.
I hope I’m wrong.
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