The Terror Playbook of Karl Rove

In his convention acceptance speech, President George W. Bush used a variation of the word “terror” a mere sixteen <times.A> few days later, during a day’s campaign appearances in Missouri, the Bush references to terror totalled forty-three, while during his infamous a-vote-for-Kerry-is-a-vote-for-a-terrorist-attack dialog in Iowa, Vice-President Cheney went called up the terror image twenty-three times, expanded one day later in a New Hampshire appearance to twenty-six.

After the criminal attacks of 9/11, fear and terror have been trump cards in the speech-making lexicon of the Bush Administration. It’s as if the message is, “Be afraid. Be very afraid. But don’t worry. We’re here to protect you.” The other guys, as Cheney let slip in Iowa, will bring on another attack. Not only must citizens fear the terrorists, they must (equally, perhaps) fear the Democrats — especially John Kerry and John Edwards, candidates with a magnetic attraction to terrorism’s evil nature.

Even Senator John McCain, embarrassed but doggedly pimping for the Bush-Cheney re-election, claims that terrorism poses the greatest threat to the nation’s existence since . . . well, since ever. McCain’s pony show is especially troubling, because the senator knows personally how vicious and cruel these no-holds-barred Bush campaigns can be. McCain and Kerry share a sorry characteristic: they both served with distinction during wartime, McCain especially so; but their years in the senate seem to have drained them of the courage to blow the whistle on wrongdoing–as Kerry did when he returned from Vietnam and reported on the horrors of war to those back home.

Behind this Bush-Cheney Reign of Terror is the Frankenstein genius of Karl Rove. As Wayne Slater and James C. Moore point out in their book and film “Bush’s Brain,” ’twas Rove who “created” George W. Bush the Politician, just as Mary Shelley’s good doctor created his creature, proving there is no “self-made” man currently occupying the White House–unless it is the genius Karl Rove himself. Rove, perceptive student of history, knows about the earlier French “reign of terror” and its patrie en danger condition, precursor to our own cancerous Patriot Act. During the last election and the administration of George W. Bush, Rove’s signature is on everything, but his fingerprints are nowhere to be found.

Each time John Kerry and John Edwards are put on the defensive by some surprise, such as the recent Swift Boat attack ads, Rove can be assumed to be somewhere behind the curtain pulling the strings. His proof of success, the envy of many ethically-challenged politicians and hack political operatives, is in the pudding he concocted by turning a black-sheep of the Bush family into a presidential swan. And yet one can not help but wonder if there is a limit to Rove’s “How To Succeed” formula. Is it possible to go too far? Are the American people really as stupid and pliable as Rove’s cynicism knows them to be? Will Karl Rove’s swan take a swan dive in the end?

A signal part of the Rove-Terror strategy has been to raise the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack: on a holiday, at the Super Bowl, during the Democratic or the Republican Convention, just prior to the November election, or, as Cheney so clearly implied: if the American voters elect the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

Although this hysteria-producing scenario has little or no basis in historical fact, it has enough plausibility to give less-thoughtful voters pause. “Oh, oh. I’d better vote for Bush and Cheney . . . Just in case.”

Of course if Bush and Cheney are re-elected and another terrorist attack occurs on U.S. soil, the blame can always be dumped on the Clintons, easy targets for vilification because of their high visibility and the hatred they engender in right-wing circles of compassionate conspiracy.

Another fear-of-terrorism hypothesis has been the prospect that a terrorist attack on the day of the November election causing the election to be postponed. A neat scenario if George W. Bush a far behind in the polls. One wonders if Rove has a plan, and the cheek, to pull it off. Although the cancellation of the election seems doubtful, one might imagine a situation where the impending threat of terrorism coupled with a move to red-orange alert could cancel one or more presidential debates. President Bush seems interested in limiting the number of debates to two, but with sufficient outcry from the public he will likely flip-flop and accept a third debate–unless the terrorism level and national safety require otherwise.

There seems little doubt the current father of his nation of ten-year-olds considers re-election more important than trading words with an elite Brahman from (wink-wink) Massachusetts.

As I write this, the Swift Boat assault on John Kerry’s reputation seems to have backfired as more evidence emerges of George W. Bush and his less-than-stellar performance in the National Guard. Still, Rove must have counted on having to deal with the problem, even though the mainstream media has been overly-timid about asking the right questions, such as: “Why would a young man trained as a jet pilot give up his opportunity to fly simply because he missed a physical examination?” “Why could the examination not have been re-scheduled?” “If George W. Bush was in Alabama, why couldn’t he (a) take the physical there, or (b) catch a military or commercial flight back to Texas and complete the required examination?” The “evidence” may not be in the missing documents but in a generous application of good old American “common sense.”

Terrorism, real terrorism, is a serious problem. It may be much more a criminal problem than one our military can resolve.

There are no organized armies of terrorist hordes waiting to set sail in an armada to invade East Hampton, Arlington or the Mendocino coast. Only the most thoughtless pessimist would argue that terrorists, even if armed with “suitcase” weapons of mass destruction, could “bring down” the United States of America. It is not about to happen, whomever sits in the Oval Office or stalks the halls of the Pentagon.

England was not destroyed by Hitler’s wrath. Germany survived the horrific attacks on Dresden and Hamburg. The destruction of Leningrad did not wipe out the Soviet Union or the spirit of the Russian people. Japan, the one nation subjected to nuclear holocaust, survives today. Even Chechnya has not been brought to its knees, despite the murderous efforts of dictators from Stalin to Putin.

Terrorists and terrorism are not about to wipe out the United States. Let’s get real. If Democrats are willing to “think outside the box” and stop quaking at every mention of the name “Karl Rove,” the tables could be turned, the ethical vacuum known as Bush’s Brain may be vanquished and America’s new long self-imposed nightmare of fear and terror may end. Then Mr. Rove can finally join the private sector and amass the financial fortune he knows he so truly deserves.

DOUG GIEBEL is a writer and analyst who lives in Big Sandy, Montana. He will participate in a panel on October 23 human rights conference to be held on at Rutgers University (Camden Campus). He welcomes correspondence at