Yesterday, on Face the Nation, Rahm Emanuel declared that Rush Limbaugh is "the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party."
This is a useful stance for the Obama administration. As David Frum puts it: "With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence -- exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix" to the GOP.
But, in truth, Rush is just a massive shiny object that distracts our attention from the real intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party, Karl Rove.
At the same time Emanuel was on CBS anointing Limbaugh top dog, over on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos Rove was demonstrating why he is the real force and the real danger in the wounded-but-still-destructive GOP.
For starters, there is the fact that he was even on the show. This Week would never have Rush on as a panelist, but there was Rove, amiably chatting about the week's events with Stan Greenberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and George Will.
Then there is Rove's decidedly anti-Limbaughian approach, whereby he calmly, lucidly, and shamelessly attempts to whitewash the past and rewrite history. A history he was front and center in making.
There he was yesterday, the picture of reasonableness, trying to eviscerate Obama's proposals to get us out of the economic mess -- without ever once acknowledging that he was one of the prime architects of the mess. (Don't forget that, according to Paul O'Neill, back in 2002, when Bush was having second thoughts about a fresh round of tax cuts for the wealthy -- wondering "Didn't we already give them a break?" -- Rove urged him to "stick to principle.")
Having Karl Rove on to pontificate about the economy is like having Bernie Madoff on to offer advice about investing.
What's next? Inviting Chris Brown on to tsk-tsk about the dangers of domestic violence? Nadya Suleman to lecture about the need for family planning? Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis to hold forth on corporate responsibility?
Rove has studied his Orwell and understands that "who controls the past, controls the future."
That's why we saw Rove lambasting Obama's budget deficit, conveniently skipping over the nearly $1.6 trillion added to the deficit by the administration he helped guide. Not one word about the role the massive tax cuts for the rich he championed played in creating the current economic crisis. Not a peep about the deregulation of Wall Street he held so dear.
Indeed, he tried to lay the Bush administration's fiscal legacy at the feet of "two wars, 9/11, and a recession handed to us by the previous administration."
Notice the chutzpah of sidestepping any accountability for the last eight years. And acting as if the Iraq war just happened -- and wasn't one of the prime goals of the man he was credited with being the brains of. In the Rovian universe, there is no such thing as cause and effect.
To set things right, we have to understand how they went so wrong. And that's hard to do when the truth is under assault, and the past brazenly revised.
During the panel discussion on This Week, Stephanopoulos ran a clip package from CPAC that showed Limbaugh and others repeating tired claims about Obama and "socialism." Rove jumped at the opportunity, happy to brand this over-the-top rhetoric "red meat for the hardcore Republican conservatives," the better to separate himself from the snarling pack and allow his historical revisionism to work its black magic in the background.
Karl Rove is too smart to say he wants Obama to fail. But if Obama's recovery plan doesn't work -- and, if it doesn't, it'll be because it wasn't big and bold enough -- Rove and the gang have a highly polished narrative at the ready, one that succeeds at disconnecting what Obama had to do to stimulate to economy with what happened before he took office. Big government failed, according to this narrative. Let's bring back tax cuts and deregulation.
Rove is like Topher Brink, the amoral programmer on Fox's Dollhouse whose job is to erase the memories from the minds of his charges -- and implant new ones.
Republicans have deservedly lost control of the government. And given the bankruptcy of their ideas for addressing the crisis we face, they realize their only chance to return to power is to try to change reality.
That's what makes Rove so dangerous -- his unbending commitment to derailing our understanding of how we've gotten to where we are.
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