In the wake of recent revelations about foreign spending on U.S. elections, President Obama has called out the Chamber of Commerce for its anonymous donors toward campaign ads in a series of speeches over the weekend. Karl Rove has at once made uncharacteristically desperate efforts to deflect this from becoming an issue in the home stretch of the midterm elections. As Shakespeare observed in Hamlet, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much."
When Obama took to the campaign trail for the long weekend last Thursday, the news had spread from Think Progress' report on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce receiving money from foreign donors. Obama intoned to a crowd in Chicago: "Right here in Illinois, in this Senate race, two groups funded and advised by Karl Rove have outspent the Democratic Party two-to-one in an attempt to beat Alexi -- two-to-one. Funded and advised by Karl Rove."
Karl Rove went to the last refuge of the scoundrel, Politico, and was quick to change the subject with a non-denial bringing up talking points about the stimulus and healthcare reform.
Obama continued in Maryland, as reported by ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper: "Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations."
The president then took this step, saying, "groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won't tell you where the money for their ads come from."
Obama kept it up in Philadelphia, as reported by the Washington Post:
'The American people deserve to know who is trying to sway their elections' and raised the possibility that foreigners could be funding his opponents.
'You don't know,' Obama said at the rally for Senate candidate Joe Sestak and other Democrats. 'It could be the oil industry. It could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don't know because they don't have to disclose.'
Sunday morning, Karl was blistering with outrage and indignation on, of course, FOX News, as reported by Sam Stein on the Huffington Post:
'They are tossing out these baseless charges,' said Rove. 'The president of the United States accused the Chamber of Commerce, and the Democratic National Committee in its new ad accuses Ed Gillespie and I of a criminal violation of our law by getting foreign money and spending it on American political campaigns, and they have not one shred of evidence to back up that baseless lie. This is a desperate and I think disturbing trend by the president of the United States to tar his political adversaries with some kind of enemies list, with being unrestrained by any facts or evidence whatsoever.'
'Have these people no shame?' he bellowed later. 'Does the president of the United States have such little regard for the office he holds that he goes out there and makes these kind of baseless charges against his political enemies? This is just beyond the pale. How dare the president do this?'
How dare he, indeed. How dare Obama point out the obvious inequity of campaign spending this year, now with Republicans outspending Democrats 7-1. How dare the president of the United States voice concern over foreign influence of America through anonymous cash windfalls, and at least request to know the identity of the big spenders. "Have they no shame?" Like Rove has endured humiliation McCarthy-style before the House of Un-American Activities Committee, his persecution has been unfathomable, and we should feel for him. (Like, say, Don Siegelman).
And leave it to Rove to be able to evoke Nixon's "enemies list" idea, having worked as Young Republican Chair on Nixon's campaign. As David Corn observes, questioning the intent of major donors who wish to attack candidates while hiding in anonymity is hardly an enemies list. Of course, the notion of "baseless charges," is telling, when no real charges against him have been made -- yet.
Rove puts on a show as if he has somehow been wronged because he knows that once he's tainted as the guy overrun with corporate money from only the most sinister industries, the money people won't risk getting associated with him. Rove probably is genuinely surprised, because Democrats never attack the corporate money giants, instead hoping to get even a portion of the table scraps that the elephants keep getting. But I think after Republicans have outspent Democrats 7 to 1 this year, the donkeys were bound to kick.
Worse than that, it blows his narrative into the crack smoke that it is: when real people are losing their homes, he is raking in tens of millions of dollars to advertise to those people to vote for the banks, brokers, and lobbyists who helped take their home from them. That's a hard enough job for Turd Blossom to spin for his party with a straight face, even on FOX News via satellite from his closet, no wonder he is so despondent. And no wonder FOX news quickly reported it as if Obama was "scaling back" his criticism after Rove's rebuke.
That Rove even emerges to put an immediate spin on something is striking. Look at like this: Have any of us heard a peep from Dick Cheney since the BP oil spill, which was brought on in part by shoddy Halliburton cement well casings? Funny how he is not on FOX News threatening us all with terrorism so close to the election. George W. Bush is not the most popular ticket in town, if people could still afford tickets to things.
As much as he has tried to pretend he hasn't ruined countless lives posing as a go-to shill for FOX News in recent years, it's not like Karl Rove is someone people really rally around. He's not even really popular with Republicans or conservatives, because they probably sense that even though he's fighting for their team, he probably does not give a flake about their beliefs or principals. Even they know he's disingenuous when he talks, but they appreciate the always-lofty talking points. But he's not, say, a Sarah Palin, that some people will really want to relate to and project themselves onto no matter what stupid thing they say. In fact, he's the consummate Washington insider that Tea Partiers think they are revolting against. No one really wants to be Karl Rove, except other aspiring shady political strategist/sociopaths. So Rove didn't really have to wail on TV like a Real Housewife unless he was perhaps A) protecting business to reassure backers, or B) emotional and jumping the gun out of guilt, or C) a combination thereof.
Rove isn't in this for power anymore. Not personal beliefs, political ideology, even money. While he is certainly motivated by ego, that's not why he is desperate. No matter what he says, no matter how cold any investigation went, Karl Rove knows that he could wake up tomorrow to a press release about a hearing from John Conyers or Al Franken about something that could be the beginning of the end for him. Rove knows what deals he cut with Patrick Fitzgerald to squeak by the Plame grand jury. Rove knows about the ongoing court case King Lincoln Bronzeville vs. Blackwell about the dramatic events in Ohio surrounding the 2004 elections, culminating in the untimely death of a close associate of Rove's who was being deposed in the case, Mike Connell.
Karl Rove needs GOP control of the Justice Department so that he can wrap up lose ends and not have to keep looking over his shoulder. Rove is always looking ahead, and will be all the more anxious if there is a chance that his plans will be denied.
And, I think, there's another reason Rove is nervous about the public attention turning toward these anonymous attack ads. Once people start to distrust the ads on TV, an effective tool to sway people has become blunted. Rove knows that once Americans stop buying whatever scare tactic he is flashing in front of them, it will require more work to suppress the vote --like caging, which he pioneered as a form of knocking voters off the registration rolls, an evolution of the computerized voter tracking systems he developed under the Nixon years, as I detailed in my film Free For All!
The Patriot Act was a product of Karl Rove, because he convinced Americans they were disloyal if they did not consent to relinquishing many of the rights guaranteed to us for centuries in the Bill of Rights. Though in all likelihood used by Rove more to spy on political enemies than domestic enemies, citizens across the continent have been subjected to warrantless wiretapping by the NSA. Millions of citizens' banking transactions were reviewed in the name of fighting terrorism, and succeeded in netting a governor in socks. Americans were arbitrarily added to no-fly lists, including a Rove biographer.
Americans surrendered their privacy at Karl Rove's behest. Karl Rove ought to be able to confirm he has nothing to hide, like the rest of Americans have had to in the public interest. The IRS has already been asked to look into the donors, and surely Mr. Rove would want to allay Americans that he is not taking foreign money to run ads attacking government officials. Karl Rove should identify his funders for American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. How dare he do this. Has he no shame?
John Wellington Ennis is making the documentary Pay 2 Play, about how to reclaim our elections from the highest bidder.