Hillary Clinton

I Admit It's Kind of Eerie, But It Proves My Chaos Theory

|

Here's one of the frustrations of political journalism: We know the people we're covering are liars, but on first blush we have to take what they're saying as if they mean it. Thus, Karl Rove's Professor Trelawney claims about Hillary Clinton–She's doomed! She's in grave danger!–are reported as if Karl Rove really thinks Hillary Clinton is a formidable presidential candidate and wants to takes some whacks at her.

Peter Wallsten argues that this isn't true at all and that Rove is using really basic reverse psychology. For evidence, here's what Rove and the White House thought about 2004.

With his Southern base, charismatic style and populist message, Edwards, they believed, could be a real threat to Bush's reelection.

But instead of attacking Edwards, Rove's team opened fire at Kerry.

Their thinking went like this, Dowd explained: Democrats, in a knee-jerk reaction to GOP attacks, would rally around Kerry, whom Rove considered a comparatively weak opponent, and make him the party's nominee. Thus Bush would be spared from confronting Edwards, the candidate Republican strategists actually feared most.

Unlike Kerry, who had been in public service for decades, Edwards was a political newcomer and lacked a long record that could be attacked. And, unlike former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who had been the front-runner but whose campaign was collapsing in Iowa, Edwards couldn't easily be painted as "nutty."

I know plenty of Republicans who think that Edwards could have actually beaten Bush–a few less gaffes, a less alienating image to present to those Iowan and Ohioan voters, and he takes the ball game. Right now I don't know any Republicans who think that if Barack Obama can actually defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary, demonstrating he's got the political acumen to match his charisma, that they can beat him in November. It's silly to think Rove hasn't gamed this out.

The mystery is why Democrats aren't trying the same thing with one of the GOP's candidates. Mitt Romney would be an obvious target since he underpolls Giuliani, Thompson, and even poor old John McCain substantially, and even a chamelon like Hillary Clinton could nail Romney for all his on-camera issue flip-flops.

NEXT: Brits Gorge on Ottomans

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. what’s with the rhyming title?

  2. sv,

    I believe this will explain it. Well done, Mr. Weigel, well done.

    As for as MC Rove’s shrewd political machinations are concerned — well, let’s just say I never thought he was the dumb guy in the White House to begin with.

  3. It’s no fair! Karl Rove is smart! There ought to be a law against smart people!

  4. awesome.

    maybe obama should attack romney.. but he seems like the kind of person who would attack giuliani harder (since an honest assessment shows giuliani to be by far the worst choice on that side).

  5. I don’t think Edwards could’ve beaten W.Between (male) candidates, the voters almost always choose the one who looks and sounds like they have a higher testosterone level than their opponent.

    Testosterone positively correlates with many features in an individual that the public associates with masculinity and strength:Assertive, confident behaviour, a prominent jaw and facial structure, low voice etc.

    Just look at the winning candidates of the past 50 years, and tell me if you don’t see a pattern.

    By that account, the Democrats should’ve nominated Wesley Clark.

  6. isn’t the whole “rove is a fucking jedi master” meme yet another way for democrats to excuse their miserable fucking performances for the past eight years?

  7. Are all your Harry Potter references an attempt to justify buying Deathly Hollows on a Reason expense account?

  8. dhex,

    That seems about right.

  9. isn’t the whole “rove is a fucking jedi master” meme yet another way for democrats to excuse their miserable fucking performances for the past eight years?

    Partly. It’s also “Bush is so fucking stupid that there has to be a Grima Wormtongue behind him somewhere.”

    Also, a lot of Democrats and their supporters often in one breath describe Bush as an idiot and then the next breath he’s an evil genius. If Rove is the evil genius, that removes some of their cognitive dissonance.

    I think you see a similar pattern with Bill and Hillary from the Republicans.

  10. dhex,

    Did you find those droids you were looking for? I didn’t think so.

  11. Also, a lot of Democrats and their supporters often in one breath describe Bush as an idiot and then the next breath he’s an evil genius. If Rove is the evil genius, that removes some of their cognitive dissonance.

    I think you see a similar pattern with Bill and Hillary from the Republicans.

    Not a particulary good analogy, since only the most angry, partisan Republicans think either Hill or Billary are stupid. It’s the level of statist evil (Bill some, Hillary a whole lot more) that troubles any libertarian-leaning Republican (not that there’s very many of those). Bill turned out to be all right, as Democratic politicians go — welfare reform, balanced budget — in other words, what you might expect from Richardson — but Hillary gives me the willies (pun intended).

  12. I have heard a single Democrat describe George Bush as a genius. And neither has Episiarch.

  13. Er, haven’t.

  14. Weigel, you just scored some major nerd points for using Weird Al lyrics in a blog post title.

  15. To paraphrase my favorite movie: The greatest trick Karl Rove ever pulled was convincing the world he was the Devil.

  16. I haven’t heard a single Democrat describe George Bush as a genius.

    Bush is a political idiot-savant — smart enough to hire bright people who could get him in office, savvy enough to connect with about half the populace (until Iraq went tits-up), not bright enough to chew gum and balance budgets at the same time (or ever).

  17. Edwards couldn’t easily be painted as “nutty.”

    Oh yeah?

    Mr. Edwards told the jury: “She said at 3, `I’m fine.’ She said at 4, `I’m having a little trouble, but I’m doing O.K.’ Five, she said, `I’m having problems.’ At 5:30, she said, `I need out.’ ”

    . . .

    “She speaks to you through me, “the lawyer went on in his closing argument. “And I have to tell you right now – I didn’t plan to talk about this – right now I feel her. I feel her presence. She’s inside me, and she’s talking to you.”

  18. joe: i’ve heard a few refer to bush’s presidency as some kind of playing possum thing, like deep underneath the candy coated exterior is the heart of wily coyote.

    it is hard not to fall into this trap. this is part of a much older theme of hyperactive dualism; my enemy is not only opposed to me, but is also pure evil, opposed to the natural order of the universe and sure to bring on armageddon.

    not that bush hasn’t tried his best and all. i tend to think of presidents as jenga blocks of baby-murdering suck myself…thus reinforcing the rule mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

  19. Hit & Run: come for the politics, stay for the pop culture references.

  20. Here’s one of the frustrations of political journalism: We know the people we’re covering are liars…

    …and in reward for your hard work, most readers still find politically-focused journalists insufferable assholes.

    Rough life, true that

  21. GILMORE,

    He’s just saying that you have to find quotes to respond to the “official statement.” Part of that includes presenting the official statement…

    Stop hatin’

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.