He’s America’s Joseph Goebbels. As a 21-year old Young Republican in Texas, Karl Rove not only pimped for Richard Nixon’s chief political dirty tricks strategist Donald Segretti but soon caught the eye of the incoming Republican National Committee Chairman, George H. W. Bush. Rove’s dirty tricks on behalf of Nixon’s 1972 campaign catapulted Rove onto the national stage. From his Eagle’s Nest in the West Wing of the White House, Rove now directs a formidable political dirty tricks operation and disinformation mill.
Since his formative political years when he tried to paint World War II B-24 pilot and hero George McGovern as a left-wing peacenik through his mid-level career as a planter of disinformation in the media on behalf of Texas and national GOP candidates to his current role as Dubya’s “Svengali,” Rove has practiced the same style of slash and burn politics as did his Nixonian mentor Segretti. Many of us remember the Lincolnesque Senator Ed Muskie breaking down in tears during the 1972 campaign over Segretti-planted false stories in a New Hampshire newspaper that accused Mrs. Muskie of being a heavy smoker, drinker, and cusser and accused Muskie of uttering a slur in describing New Hampshire’s French Canadian population. Rove’s hero also forged letters on fake Muskie campaign letterhead, disrupted rallies and fundraising dinners, and spread false stories about the sex lives of candidates. Segretti’s brush also smeared George McGovern, George Wallace, Shirley Chisholm, and McGovern’s first vice presidential choice, Senator Tom Eagleton. Segretti of course did not go on to a high-level White House job — he was sentenced to six months in federal prison for distributing illegal campaign material.
In many respects, however, the apprentice Rove has far exceeded the chicanery and evil-mindedness of his mentor Segretti. Rove is a tech-savvy puppet master for Bush. Take, for example, last June’s discovery of a “lost” CD-ROM in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Contained on the CD was a PowerPoint presentation given by White House political director Ken Mehlman to Rove on the strategy for next Tuesday’s off-year election. The slide show showed First Brother Jeb Bush being vulnerable in Florida. Jeb Bush later joked that the disc was part of a plot cooked up by him and his brother to make it appear that he was vulnerable in order to rally an otherwise complacent GOP base in the Sunshine State. Or was it a joke? Jeb Bush and his political minions like Katherine Harris have shown us that if anyone thinks what the GOP has done in Florida is funny they have an incredibly sick sense of humor.
Rove’s own tendency to be sick-minded originates with his mentor Segretti. The 2000 GOP primary was a chance for Rove to hone his skills in dirty tricks. His target then was Senator John McCain who appeared to be within striking distance of Dubya in South Carolina after the then-GOP maverick’s surprise upset victory in New Hampshire. Rove’s operation proceeded to target McCain with false stories: McCain was a stoolie for his captors in the Hanoi Hilton (this from a lunatic self-promoting Vietnam “veteran”); McCain fathered a black daughter out of wedlock (a despicable reference to McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter); Cindy McCain’s drug “abuse”; and even McCain’s “homosexuality.” In the spirit of Segretti, Rove engineered a victory for Dubya but at the cost of trashing an honorable man and his family. Muskie, McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Hart, Tsongas, Clinton, Biden, Dole, Perot, and others had all seen the Segretti/Rove slash and burn tactics before.
And Rove’s penchant for fascistic demagoguery and outright lying continues to this very day. After Paul Wellstone’s sons asked that Vice President Dick Cheney not attend the Minneapolis memorial service for their father, mother, and sister, the White House explained that the real reason wasn’t the surviving Wellstone family’s abhorrence for Cheney but the fact the family didn’t want Cheney’s Secret Service protection to interfere with public access to the service. Of course, the Rove and Ari Fleischer disinformation machine forgot to take into account that two attendees, Bill and Hillary Clinton, had their own Secret Service details. But such is the case with a White House that takes its lessons from Goebbels and the editorial staff of the old Soviet News Agency Tass.
Rove’s dirty fingerprints could also be seen in the Iowa Senate race between Tom Harkin and GOP candidate Greg Ganske. A few months ago, a story was leaked that the Harkin campaign had employed a spy within the Ganske campaign. To put this in a Rove context, we must go back to the 1986 Texas gubernatorial race in which Rove’s candidate Bill Clements was taking on Democratic Governor Mark White. Just before a debate between the two candidates, Rove spun the story that his office had been bugged. No proof. But the insinuation that White’s people had carried out the bugging was reported by the media. In the election, Clements defeated White. Rove stashed away more political capital into his already heavy knapsack of ill-gotten IOUs.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, we were obviously treated to more Rove chicanery when the following Associated Press story hit the wires: “A woman who worked for a media company that produced ads for President George W. Bush’s campaign was indicted for secretly mailing a videotape of Bush practicing for a debate to Vice President Al Gore’s campaign.” Yes, that videotape, along with a 120-page briefing book, just happened to turn up in Gore’s headquarters as fast as the CD-ROM turned up in Lafayette Park. The sourcerer Segretti must be very proud of his apprentice. In 1980, no Republican bemoaned the fact that Jimmy Carter’s debate briefing book was swiped and found its way into the hands of the Reagan-Bush campaign. In Rove’s world, its only an affront when someone “steals” your own campaign secrets and not when your are on the receiving end of a heist.
“If you’re not with me, you’re against me.” Bush’s binary view of “good and evil” and “friend and enemy” sits well with the Rove strategy. Georgia’s conservative but libertarian-minded Representative Bob Barr found out about this in last August’s primary when his GOP primary opponent John Linder began spreading around stories that Barr was “soft on terrorism.” Because Barr was skeptical about a number of aspects of the Bush-Ashcroft USA PATRIOT Act, he became a target for the Rove machine. However, it was likely that Barr became a target earlier on when he supported Steve Forbes against Bush in the 2000 primary. Bush apparently means to say, “If you’ve not always been with me, you’re against me.” It must have really been a dilemma for Bush and Rove to have to come to the support of John Sununu, Jr. in the New Hampshire Senate race. Although Daddy made George W. unceremoniously give the axe to Sununu’s father as White House Chief of Staff during the Bush 41 administration, the man who the junior Sununu defeated in the primary, Bob Smith, was even more of a problem. He had the temerity to quit the Republican Party in 2000 and run against Dubya for President. So in Bushspeak, which is obviously borrowed from Forrest Gump’s scripts, “if you’re less with me than the other guy, you’re more against me.”
Undoubtedly, Rove was also behind the campaign to “get” Georgia Representative Cynthia McKinney who was the first nationally-known politician to question what Bush may have known beforehand about 9-11. She was defeated by a former Republican state judge who had supported the wacky Alan Keyes for President in 2000. Never mind, McKinney was “less with Bush” than Keyes, so it was more important to get McKinney who was “more against” Bush.
In all seriousness, rewarding the GOP on November 5 will only increase the appetite of Rove to amass more and more power into the White House. The advent of a Democratic-controlled Senate and House might even begin to spell the end of the road for Segretti’s star pupil. German opposition figures in the mid-1930s often lamented the fact that they could have stopped the rise of the Nazis if only they had been more united in a common front when they had a chance. However, they fell prey to the media manipulation of Goebbels and fought among themselves more than they did against the menace from the far right. We Americans also have an early opportunity to stem an out-of-control and anti-constitutional regime with the Rasputin-like Rove at the after steerage helm of our ship of state. That opportunity presents itself next Tuesday–Election Day.
WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com