Karl Rove and the affection for projection

KARL ROVE AND THE AFFECTION FOR PROJECTION…. Karl Rove has a special, some might call it “pathological,” quality as a political pundit. More than anyone I’ve ever seen or heard of, Rove identifies some of his own ugliest, most malicious, most pernicious qualities, and then projects them onto those he hates most.

I’ve long been fascinated by this, but he just keeps getting worse. Rove’s latest WSJ column was almost comically lacking in self awareness, and concluded with this jaw-dropper:

Since Mr. Obama can’t make an affirmative case for his re-election, he has decided to try convincing voters that Republicans are monstrous. As a result, America is likely to see the most negative re-election campaign ever mounted by a sitting president.

As best as I can tell, Rove wasn’t kidding. His column wasn’t intended as satire. He seriously believes the president with the most successful record of accomplishments in a generation “can’t make an affirmative case for his re-election.” Rove also seems genuine when he thinks Obama will be more negative than any incumbent president in history.

I don’t know if there’s a prescription available to treat these kinds of delusions, but maybe Rove’s buddy Rush Limbaugh can give him a hand.

Look, 2004 really wasn’t that long ago. Rove was the “architect” of the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign strategy, and he designed what can fairly be described as the most negative re-election campaign ever mounted by a sitting president.

BC04, for example, launched 64 television commercials after John Kerry had secured the Democratic nomination. Of those 64 ads, 45 were attacks directed at Kerry. That’s the not a ratio used by a campaign eager to make an affirmative case for its re-election.

For that matter, if you have a few minutes, take a look at Bush’s stump speech from the 2004 campaign. Before the then-president could name a single accomplishment from his first term, Bush’s stump speech blasted Kerry as a flip-flopper. From there, Bush touted tax cuts for the wealthy as his most notable accomplishment, and then lied about Kerry’s record of supporting tax increases.

Bush then transitioned to mentioning No Child Left Behind, before blasting Kerry on education, health care, medical liability, gay rights, abortion, and liberal judges.

The stump speech then moved on to national security, with Bush boasting, “Afghanistan is free and is an ally in the war on terror” — how’s that one working out? — and touting progress in Iraq, before spending the rest of the speech condemning Kerry on “voting against the troops,” Cold War strategy, counter-terrorism, international cooperation, and something to do with 9/11.

The accomplishment-to-attack ratio in Bush’s stump speech was roughly seven to one. (Count all the times the rhetoric pauses so the audience can boo Kerry.)

And ol’ Karl is worried about Obama being overly negative in 2012?

This does, however, fit into a remarkable pattern. Rove has spent his professional life engaged in political sleaze, so he’s accused Obama of adding “arsenic to the nation’s political well.” Rove ran a White House that embraced a “permanent campaign,” so he’s accused the Obama team of embracing a “permanent campaign.” Rove embraced the politics of fear, so he’s accused Obama of embracing the politics of fear. Rove relied on “pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted ” political events, so he’s accused Obama of relying on “pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted” political events. Rove looked at every policy issue “from a political perspective,” so he’s accused Obama of looking at every policy issue “from a political perspective.” Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he’s accused Obama of snubbing snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan. Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he’s accused Obama of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons. Rove questioned the motives of those with whom he disagreed, so he’s accused Obama of questioning the motives of those with whom he disagrees.

A lesser hack might find it difficult to launch political attacks that are ironic, wrong, hypocritical, and examples of projection, all at the same time, but Rove is a rare talent.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.