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June 26, 2005 - Temporarily Moved from DC to Manhattan

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It all started with the Master of Spin visiting Manhattan.

Rove Criticizes Liberals on 9/11
Patrick D. Healy, The New York Times, June 23, 2005


Karl Rove came to the heart of Manhattan last night to rhapsodize about the decline of liberalism in politics, saying Democrats responded weakly to Sept. 11 and had placed American troops in greater danger by criticizing their actions.

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.

Citing calls by progressive groups to respond carefully to the attacks, Mr. Rove said to the applause of several hundred audience members, "I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground, a side of the Pentagon destroyed, and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble."

Told of Mr. Rove's remarks, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, replied: "In New York, where everyone unified after 9/11, the last thing we need is somebody who seeks to divide us for political purposes."

Mr. Rove also said American armed forces overseas were in more jeopardy as a result of remarks last week by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who compared American mistreatment of detainees to the acts of "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others."

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals." ...


But what everyone honed in on was two key remarks –


1.) Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

2.) Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.


Okay then.  This is going to be good.

And along with that, see Dems Allegedly 'Conducting Guerrilla Warfare on Troops' back in DC –


Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who joined Pryce at the press conference, told Cybercast News Service that it "is just inconceivable and truly incorrigible that in the midst of the war, that the Democratic leaders would be conducting guerrilla warfare on American troops..."


Yeah, Howard Dean has a bomb in his briefcase and he's off to Baghdad to kill our guys.  Or is that Dick Durbin flying out tonight?

And all this stuff about torture at our cushy resort down in Cuba?


"The American taxpayer is already providing accommodations for detainees, who are currently more comfortable than most of our men and women in uniform..."


Most of our men and women are chained to the floor for days at time and defecating themselves? Perhaps he didn't mean that.

Back to Rove: "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said we must understand our enemies."

Over at Daily Kos there's this:


He's right. We want to understand.

We want to understand why Osama Bin Laden hasn't been captured? Why did the administration take its eyes off Al Qaida to invade Iraq? I mean, Al Qaida is the enemy Rove himself said we had to defeat. But we haven't.

Instead of defeating our enemies, we went to war against an impotent enemy - Saddam. And yes, we want to understand. Like, why did they lie to go to war in Iraq? Why is that war still going, unabated? Why are we no closer to victory now, than we were in when Bush declared, "Mission Accomplished"? Why don't our troops have proper ammo? Why aren't there enough boots on the ground in Iraq? Why are we still dying in Afghanistan?

He's right. I want to understand. I don't understand why the administration hasn't called for sacrifice. Why won't war supporters enlist? Why won't they encourage their circle of influence to enlist? Why won't they level with the American people, and give an honest assessment of what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I don't understand how our nation, always the good guys, is now perceived as the "bad guy" the world over. I don't understand how torture has become a commonplace occurrence inside facilities that bear the stars and stripes.


Oh my, it is getting hot.  This Rove guy is good.  Why?


Rove is trying to divide Americans, using the tired canard of the fringe Right that "liberals hate America."

Fact is, we demand results. And Republicans are showing, again, that they can't govern.

So as their fortunes circle the drain, they resort to outrageous attacks in an attempt to distract from their own incompetence. And their sycophants in their media machine will dutifully salute their superiors and parrot the charges.

And they will cross their fingers and hope that dragging the political discourse even deeper into the mud will distract people from their own incompetence. Standard operating procedure for these guys.


Hey, it works.

Well, if Dick Durbin is forced to apologize for his remarks, what about Rove? The opposition leader in the senate, Harry Reid, says this:


I am deeply disturbed and disappointed that the Bush White House would continue to use the national tragedy of September 11th to try and divide the country. The lesson our country learned on that terrible morning is that we are strongest when we unite together, that America's power is in its common spirit of democracy and freedom.

Karl Rove should immediately and fully apologize for his remarks or he should resign. The lesson of September 11th is not different for conservatives, liberals or moderates. It is equally shared and was repeatedly demonstrated in the weeks and months following this tragedy as Americans of all backgrounds and their elected representatives rallied behind the victims and their families, united in our common determination to bring to justice those responsible for these terrible attacks.

It is time to stop using September 11th as a political wedge issue. Dividing our country for political gain is an insult to all Americans and to the common memory we all carry with us from that day. When it comes to standing up to terrorists, there are no Republicans or Democrats, only Americans. The Administration should be focused on uniting Americans behind our troops and providing them a strategy for success in the war on terror and the conflict in Iraq. I hope the president will join me in repudiating these remarks and urge Mr. Rove to take appropriate action to right this terrible wrong.


No, Harry, no one is going to resign or apologize for anything.  He just called you, and everyone who questions things and wants to know more, ineffectual wimps, if not fools.  No big deal.

Some people are smart, strong warriors, and don't ask "why" about things.  They get smacked?  They smack back.  That's what real men do.

And note this: "The White House defended Rove's remarks and accused Democrats of engaging in partisan attacks. Rove, said spokesman Scott McClellan, 'was talking about the different philosophies and our different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism.'"

You see, Harry, you're being partisan.  It is just a difference in philosophy.  Or a difference between men and woman.  Or between thinkers and doers.  Or something.

Kevin Drum explains how it works:


That's how the Republican party plays the game these days: accuse Democrats of being traitors and poltroons, and then, when they're called on it, turn up the volume even higher while simultaneously pretending that they're just talking about "different philosophies." This is McCarthy level thuggery, and one can only hope that Karl Rove meets the same bad end as the junior senator from Wisconsin.


Poltroons?  Spiritless cowards?  No one uses that word anymore.  (Etymology: Middle French poultron, from Old Italian poltrone, probably akin to poltro colt, ultimately from Latin pullus - young of an animal…) 


And what's this about Joe McCarthy?

In any event, Harry, you lose.

Of course, an organization called "The Families of September 11" have to have their say:


As families whose relatives were victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, we believe it is an outrage that any Democrat, any Republican, any conservative or any liberal, stakes a "high ground" position based upon the September 11th death and destruction. Doing so assumes that all those who died and their loved ones would agree. In truth, some would and some would not. By definition the conduct is divisive and, because it is intended to be self-serving and politicizes 9/11, it is offensive.

We are calling on Karl Rove to resist his temptations and stop trying to reap political gain in the tragic misfortune of others. His comments are not welcome.


Obviously these folks have no shame.  A bunch of guys from Saudi Arabia on orders from a tall, strange man in Afghanistan flew those planes into those buildings and killed their family members, so the Bush administration invaded and took over Iraq (close enough) and they don't appreciate it.  At least the Bush administration DID something everyone in the world noticed.  It may have been the wrong country and for the wrong reasons, but the Bush administration did something.  So the Bush administration is claiming the high ground, as they did the wrong thing in the wrong place and at the wrong time, but they did something.  And these families are ticked off?

Well, this is all madness.  But Karl Rove has stirred things up.  But why now?

Something is afoot (not "a foot") as David Shuster at MSNBC points out:


I don't know if things are getting better or worse in Iraq. But I do know the Bush administration is now in total panic mode over the erosion of public support for the occupation. How else could one explain the President's bizarre radio address this past Saturday or the even more surreal comments recently from other administration officials?

First, the president's radio address: On Saturday President Bush defended the war in Iraq saying, "We went to war because we were attacked." Huh? In September 2003, the President himself stated, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th attacks." (For the record, the 9/11 Commission is on the side of the Sept. 2003 President Bush - The commission found there was "no collaborative relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.")

On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said criticism of the handling of the war isn't justified because "The administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq." What? That was said... but it came from Senators pouring cold water on the administration's optimistic pre-war predictions. What were those predictions? Vice President Cheney (March 16, 2003) said, "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators... I think it will go relatively quickly... in weeks rather than months." Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on Feb. 7, 2003 said, "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." Former Budget director Mitch Daniels (March 28, 2003) stated, "The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid."
Iraq will not require sustained aid? Hmmm. Today, Congress voted to send the Pentagon another $45 billion for operations in Iraq. That brings the total amount appropriated so far, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to $322.40 billion.

The administration seems to think that by shifting the justification for the war or changing what administration officials said 3 years ago, the president's poll numbers will magically turn around. The pretzel shaped logic of this strategy is mind-boggling. And one begins to wonder if the gang that helped President Bush win a 2nd term has been stuffed into a closet.

The math on this is simple. If the war was going well, the public would support the occupation of Iraq, regardless of whatever reasons the administration gave for the invasion. The problem is, according to republican Senator Chuck Hagel, "The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along."

And now, the public is tired of this deadly trip through fantasyland - a place where White House P.R. strategies seem to matter more than holding anybody accountable for the war's mistakes and mismanagement.


Panic mode?  Maybe.  But the spin is increasing.

This is going to be interesting.


Just after midnight, Friday morning, June 24, Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly has an interesting question:



I'm a little curious about something related to yesterday's Karl Rove affair. Most of the attention seems to have focused on his "liberals offered therapy and understanding" sentence, but isn't the following passage really the more serious one?

"Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
It's one thing to make belligerent pronouncements that contrast conservative toughness with liberal wimpiness. It's nasty and demeaning, but hardly something we haven't heard before. The Al Jazeera passage, on the other hand, goes considerably further: it says specifically that the motive of Dick Durbin and others who criticize prisoner abuse is to put our troops in danger. He didn't say Durbin was merely careless, he said Durbin wanted to put our troops in greater danger. That's treason.

Generally speaking, I tend not to get too bent out of shape by occasional rhetorical howlers. It's just part of the game. But calling Durbin and his fellow liberals traitors - which is clearly what that passage suggests - really is beyond the pale coming from a highly placed political official, isn't it? Or am I missing something here?

UPDATE: RNC chair Ken Mehlman offered the bizarrely feeble excuse that "Karl didn't say the Democratic Party. He said liberals." What's up with that? Isn't Dick Durbin a Democrat?


Is calling those who criticize what we do traitors beyond the pale?  Don't know.

Bill O'Reilly on the June 20 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly had this to say (audio clip here): "...you must know the difference between dissent from the Iraq war and the war on terror and undermining it.  And any American that undermines that war, with our soldiers in the field, or undermines the war on terror, with 3,000 dead on 9-11, is a traitor."

Lots of people say such things, and never make clear what they see as the difference between what is "dissent" and what is this "undermining" stuff.  If they are not terribly offended by what you say it's dissent.  If it makes them uncomfortable you are "undermining" our country; and that is, in fact, treason.  They get to choose.  Not a good situation.  You have to be very careful.

And there may be a difference when such things are said by a talk show blowhard and when such things are said by an official of the White House.

And see this on the House this week backing an amendment to forbid desecrating the American flag.  Aaron at Tacitus on the state attempting "to sanctify its symbol" -


That is, in effect, what this amendment would do. The language even implies holiness - to forbid the desecration of an object suggests that the object is consecrated in the first place. Now if this passes as a constitutional amendment then critics can hardly say it's unconstitional, but it does seem contrary to the spirit of our Bill of Rights. I am loathe to invoke the founding fathers and "original intent", as such maneuvering is always vague and really just political posturing, but I do honestly feel that any amendment which restricts our rights, rather than enhances them, is a bad idea. The other big example (prohibition) didn't exactly turn out too well - it is not the purpose of the constitution to restrict individual behavior but rather restrict governmental behavior.

Now there is much debate about what sort of precedent this would establish, whether it is a slippery slope to restricting more political speech.

... These critiques are pertinent, but I feel they distract from the core issue, and that is that, slippery slope or no, using the constitution to restrict freedom is wrong. Using the constitution to enforce this kind of nationalistic loyalty is also wrong, and particularly creepy with the religious "consecration" flavor. I do not think that this is necessarily the first step to further free speech restriction, but I do think it could be yet another step in the theocratization of America. This scares me far more than the issue of free speech. Consecrating and enshrining a nationalistic symbol is something done by a theocracy, not a democracy. We respect and love our symbols, but recognize that that is what they are - symbols.

... I have no interest in burning the flag. ... But if this amendment passes, I will find myself sorely tempted to join those who will no doubt protest, and perhaps even burn a flag myself. It may seem childish, but it is perhaps the only act that will be recognized by the government and by the media and the people. If enough stand up, then they will have to be listened to.


And this is from a conservative.

Things really are coming to a head, as you can see in this comment from Eric Alterman's column at MSNBC.  A New Yorker from Manhattan, Siva Vaidhyanathan, says this


All we asked for was our country's support. All we got was a president who lied about everything, including the dangers we all shared from breathing in the charred dust and smoke of the smoldering wreckage of Ground Zero. He promised us justice. Instead we got shame.

New York still stands tall, liberals and conservatives together. We still talk about those days when we weren't sure everyone we loved had lived through it, when we weren't sure if there would be more coming soon. All we could be sure of is that we were going to persevere and triumph, that we would stand united and strong. Today, despite Karl Rove's best efforts, we still stand united and strong.

And we still wonder when we will see justice.

Karl Rove should hang out here long enough to see that.
But, as Rick told Major Strasser in Casablanca, "There are some parts of New York where I wouldn't suggest you go."


And our high-powered Wall Street attorney, and sometimes contributor to Just Above Sunset, from his office high over the big hole where the World Trade Center towers stood, adds more, as he was there, and is still there –


The strange thing is that I still remember the smell that day from midtown as well as the smell downtown forty-eight hours later. It was the smell of burned building, burned electronics, and a smell one couldn't or wouldn't quite place. As I recall, there was a fair amount of ash on my shoes that day, and I wondered for a moment if it was all just concrete and plaster or something else.

Regarding the dangers we shared - we still share them, which is why the EPA has not blessed the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building next door to my office. The DB building is shrouded in a black canvas of sorts. Also, as Alan can tell you all, ground zero is the absent building next door to the office in which I am writing this email.

Unfortunately, there will always be the Karl Roves among us. The question is how to collectively move past them and move the United States back into the international community where, with a bit of cooperation (not bluster) a great deal can be accomplished.

Perhaps not, but looking out on New York Harbor, it could happen.


Yes, I have been to his office, and from the thirty-second floor you can look out and down on the Statue of Liberty in the harbor below (this is the view as darkness closes in).  My grandparents saw it long ago as they arrived.  The French gave it to us on the centennial of our starting this experiment.  And now?

Perhaps we should not let Rove and his boss mess this up any more than they have already.


Minor note on minor spin:

Above there is the idea that the administration sees itself as a brotherhood of smart, strong warriors, who don't ask "why" about things.  They get smacked?  They smack back.  That's what real men do.  Folks who think about things - liberals, Democrats - are the fools.

An example?

On June 22 Bush made an official visit the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant near Washington.  In addition to stressing how much we need to move to nuclear power (like the French?) he really put energy secretary Samuel Bodman in his place.  This is exactly why people voted for him, or he thinks people will continue to support him.  This speaks to core of the "values" issues here.

From the White House transcript:


THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate the Secretary of Energy joining me today. He's a good man, he knows a lot about the subject, you'll be pleased to hear. I was teasing him - he taught at MIT, and - do you have a PhD?


THE PRESIDENT: Yes, a PhD. (Laughter.) Now I want you to pay careful attention to this - he's the PhD, and I'm the C student, but notice who is the advisor and who is the President.


Fred Becker at wonkette.com –


Yipee!  Take a field trip and have your ego smashed.  Ain?t it great fun?  The Army should try this to get its recruitment numbers up: "Now I want you to pay careful attention to this - he's the soldier, I'm the one who avoided active service, but look who's sending people to die?"


Is this a slip-up, or part of the values initiative, to keep in touch with real Americans, who really do despise people who think too much?

Last February, with Andrew Biggs, one of his Social Security officials, this:


THE PRESIDENT: Tell them whether or not we got a problem or not, from your perspective.

DR. BIGGS: Put simply, we do, in fact, have a problem.

THE PRESIDENT: By the way, this guy -- PhD. See, I was a C student. (Laughter.) He's a PhD, so he's probably got a little more credibility. I do think it's interesting and should be heartening for all C students out there, notice who's the President and who's the advisor. (Laughter and applause.) All right, Andrew, get going. (Applause.) Andrew's got a good sense of humor.


In March, at Auburn University, to one of the professors, one Mark Brown, this:


THE PRESIDENT: I've asked Jeff Brown to join me. He is a professor. He can tell you where - where do you profess? (Laughter.)

DR. BROWN: I have a PhD in economics, and I teach at a business school.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. It's an interesting lesson here, by the way. He's an advisor. Now, he is the PhD, and I am a C-student - or was a C-student. Now, what's that tell you? (Laughter and applause.) All you C-students at Auburn, don't give up. (Laughter and applause.)


You get the idea.  And Brendan Nyhan at Duke University was the one who found these last two.  And he adds this comment: "Given Bush's frequent need to mock experts with graduate degrees, it's no wonder his administration has a pathological aversion to expert advice. After all, who's the president?"

Ah well, the lines have been drawn.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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