There has been much speculation about Karl Rove's political brilliance, yet seeming political blunder in calling liberals traitorous Osama-huggers who want our troops to die. Mahablog
summarizes the theories going around: it's part of a coordinated propaganda attack; it's a sign that the machine's not so well-oiled anymore; Rove himself -- a pathological, immoral monster -- really needs to get some help because he's cracking up publicly.
Well, I've developed a theory, myself. Daily Kos
reports the President has lost the independent vote by a stunning amount...17% approve, 75% disapprove. That's pretty bad. That's lose-the-White House bad, and reflective of how unpopular the Republican-lead Congress is. But Bush is a lame duck, and the next Presidential election is still three years away. It's very important to this Administration to maintain majorities in both houses in the coming 2006 elections. If they lose even one, the real investigations will begin -- and two years is plenty of time to impeach a President.
There are a number of seats in both houses which are vulnerable. The DCCC blog
has a list of the Congressional seats that are most likely to flip: Marilyn Musgrave, Bob Beauprez, Rob Simmons, Christopher Shays, Katherine Harris, Mike Sodrel, Jim Nussle, Chris John, Charles Taylor, Bob Ney, Jim Gerlach, Michael Fitzpatrick, and Dave Reichert.
In The National Journal, Chuck Todd
lists the most vulnerable Senators: Rick Santorum, Lincoln Chafee, Conrad Burns, Jon Kyl, James Talent, Mike DeWine, and Richard Lugar.
I figured we should look for these people to distance themselves from Rove's comments. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was surprised to see Atrios
report that Santorum had distanced himself. And First Draft's
first respondent to the letter campaign was Rob Simmons. Rob who? Rob "On the vulnerable Reps list" Simmons, that's who.
Chuck also gives me more reason to think Rove has a clever plan:
Iraq, the number one issue for voters, is devouring the Republican Party. And with no new moment to look for that doesn't have the word "withdrawal" in it, it's hard to see how the situation improves before next November...We've been writing for months that at some point, Iraq was going to hurt the Republicans as much as it helped them in 2002. They lucked out in 2004, but 2006 is a whole new ballgame.
Karl's winning strategy is to not defend his guy's weaknesses while attacking the other guy's strengths. The Iraq war is rapidly becoming Bush's weakness, and, if not the Democrats' strength, the Democrats' blamelessness. Americans, including an increasing amount of Republicans, know this is Bush's war, his plans, his screw-ups.
Now is a good time -- especially so soon after Durbin's widely mischaracterized remarks were roundly criticized as being harmful to the troops -- to go after that perceived blamelessness in the traditional, proven tactic of questioning Dems loyalty and concern for the military.
But why, then, would certain Republicans distance themselves from Rove's words? The White House is backing Karl...how could these Congressmen distance themselves when the White House won't?
Here's my theory: Since Bush is a lame duck, and the two houses of Congress are most at stake at present, Karl's plan is to let the White House take a hit with wildly offensive remarks and allow vulnerable Republicans to distance themselves and seem more principled, independent, and sane. This would probably be only the first instance.
Look for more opportunities for vulnerable Republicans to distance themselves from the White House.
Do I think we are playing into Karl's hands by distracting the public from more important issues and giving the vulnerable Republicans cover? Possibly. Maybe instead of writing letters to our representatives demanding apologies and distancing, we should use the opportunity -- piggy-backed onto our brief complaints of Karl's outrageous comments -- to remind the public that this Administration, utilizing typical, tired rhetoric, is just trying to distract us from its incompetence and serious breaches of trust. Cite examples. Be specific.
Perhaps I shall write a letter.