Trump Adopts Rove’s Strategy. Media Buys It

A little over five years ago, Steve Benen wrote the quintessential analysis of Karl Rove’s favorite strategy.

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.

Perhaps Donald Trump was paying attention. Or maybe these kinds of things come naturally to people like he and Rove. I say that because, as Clinton was preparing to give her searing speech outlining how white nationalists the alt-right is taking over the Republican Party via Trump, the candidate responded by calling her a bigot.

“Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future,” Trump said at a campaign rally here, speaking to an overwhelmingly white audience of supporters in the deep-red state. “She doesn’t care what her policies have done to your communities. She has no remorse. She’s going to do nothing for Hispanics and African-Americans.”

It is interesting to watch Trump squirm and dive when Anderson Cooper tried to tie him down on what that means. But there is a reason why people like Rove and Trump employ this tactic: the media buys it. For example, here are some of the headlines emanating from yesterday:

ABC: Clinton, Trump Tangle Over Racism
Washington Post: Clinton, Trump exchange racially charged accusations
CNN: Clinton says Trump leading ‘hate movement’; he calls her a ‘bigot’
Politico: Trump and Clinton throw more blows in bigotry fight

In other words, projection isn’t just a psychological defense mechanism anymore. It is a political strategy used to ensure that the media reports moments like this as a “he said/she said” that is the basis of bothsiderism. It works. And the media can simply fall back on saying that they are simply reporting the facts of what happened.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.