09/06/2012 10:22 pm ET Updated Nov 06, 2012

Hacking the Public Trust

I couldn't read about the alleged hacking of Mitt Romney's tax records without thinking that this smacks of the classic Karl Rove playbook.

Look at these guys -- whoever they may be. If they have this information, what hackers worth their hacking certificates wouldn't get this information released at this point in Switzerland or the French press? And if this is just a ransom scheme, why ask for just $1 million for information worth many times that amount to some people? They are clearly operating in a world in which corporations are considered people, and data are kidnappable. If this is really is to collect a ransom, these guys are just hacks, not hackers.

But I can't help but think that there may be another explanation. Look at an old play that many suspect came from the Karl Rove playbook: A few short weeks before the end of a rugged gubernatorial campaign, and one night before a televised debate, you hire a team that finds a bug in your campaign office, near your desk, and you surmise in public that it may have come from your opponent's campaign. Weeks later, and a few days before the election, that is proven not to be the case. But the damage is done to your opponent. Many suspect you may have planted the bug yourself or had the hired investigators plant it.

Rove was widely suspected of identifying CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press soon after her ambassador husband criticized Bush for his justifications for the invasion of Iraq. Rove denied any such role. Robert Novak identified Rove as his source several years later.

It's all in the name of undermining public trust. Convincing people that politics is about dirty tricks on both sides and not about clear-cut, serious issues. You try to convince people to walk away from a nasty, untrustworthy process.

Which brings us to hacking and the Romney tax records. For Mitt Romney, the tax record issue won't go away. So the Rove playbook dictates that you change the story. Romney becomes the victim, and the release of the records becomes a question of acceding to the low-life hackers of the world and their confederates. Does Harry Reid's possession of Romney tax documents become somehow tainted by this? And then the whisper campaign may begin about Democratic connections to these hackers.

You don't know what's true. It almost no longer matters. You don't know who to trust. And the content of the tax records become secondary to the theft -- if it did, indeed, even take place.

What we do know is that Karl Rove and his ilk want us to walk away. They try to keep some of us out of the voting both when we show up. But even more insidious, they try to convince us not to go there in the first place because we don't know what to believe.

Better to watch the Giants play the Cowboys. Even with fake referees, we can figure out what's going on.

If you can't trust anybody, that's when you say, "I've got mine; you're on your own." That's why distortions of the truth are all part of the Republican game plan. That's why they're hacking away at the public trust.