OPEN UNIVERSITY SEPTEMBER 3, 2006
Today's Times has a piece speculating on whether Karl Rove's alleged magic at winning elections has worn off. I've always been skeptical of the claims of brilliance ascribed to Rove, who has never struck me as bright, and all of whose election victories (2000, 2002, 2004) have extremely close and in some cases open to doubt. I think the credit he gets has more to do with (a) a general failure to believe that Bush's "brain" might be located anywhere but in the body of another person; (b) inside-the-Beltway reporters cozying up to power; (c) the ability of a conventional-wisdom factoid to replicate itself; and--most important--(d) the tendency of liberals to attribute their electoral losses to the malevolent genius of the other side. Before Rove, there was Roger Ailes and Lee Atwater; before Ailes and Atwater, Michael Deaver ... going back to 1968 and Ailes (again) the rest of the Nixon crew made famous by Joe McGinniss in The Selling of the President. If Rove retires and the Republicans win in 2008, will we be hearing that Ken Mehlman, too, is a genius?