KARL ROVE, CHAMPION OF THE LITTLE GUY….A couple of days ago James Fallows dispensed some advice to Michael Gerson regarding his new op-ed perch at the Washington Post. Boiled down, he suggested that Gerson needed to reduce his output of vague, feel-good columns and instead write sharper, more pointed pieces that acknowledged his six years as George Bush’s chief speechwriter and made that experience a core part of his narrative, warts and all.
Today Gerson did just that, writing a column about Karl Rove. Here’s his pitch:
Rove’s main influence on the Republican Party has not been a series of tactical innovations but a series of strategic arguments. In this way, Rove is the opposite of a cynical political operator.
….Rove argues that Republicans win as activist reformers, in the tradition of Lincoln, McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. “We were founded as a reformist party,” he said in our conversation this week, “not to be against something, but to help the little guy get ahead.” The models he cites are 401(k)s and the mortgage interest deduction — government policies that encouraged individual wealth and ownership.
Really? Rove is the opposite of a cynical political operator? His great passion is helping the little guy get ahead? And his evidence for this is….wait for it….the mortgage interest deduction and 401(k)s? In case you’re wondering, the first is an outgrowth of the generic interest deduction that was included in the very first income tax legislation nearly a century ago (and was originally aimed at businesses, not home mortgages) and the second is a program that was accidentally created in 1978 under a Democratic administration and then put into its current form by a benefits consultant with a nose for loopholes. The IRS under Reagan didn’t shoot down the idea, but that was about all they had to do with it.
This is Rove’s model for the Republican Party’s great activist tradition of helping the little guy? Two programs that that were (a) accidental, and (b) not proposed by Republicans in the first place? What’s the problem? Couldn’t he come up with any actual examples of Republicans helping the little guy?
Maybe Gerson had the right idea after all. I think the feel-good stuff may be more his cup of tea.