What a difference a few years make! In 2004, Karl Rove mobilized evangelicals to George W. Bush’s campaign by playing on their fears of a godless liberal social agenda that included the horrific slippery slope of same-sex marriage. In 2012, he’s spreading the message that same-sex marriage is not a game-changing issue because Americans are more concerned about serious matters like jobs and the economy.
On Thursday, Greta Van Susteren gave Rove a long interview which he began by lamenting the campaign’s focus on the trivial things, like who Mitt Romney beat up in school 50 years ago. “I'm not sure that it adds much to our knowledge of him, and really, frankly, is a waste of time and energy and effort by what used to be one of the great newspapers in America They're devoting this kind of resources to this kind of a story on the Republican candidate .. It seems to me to be silly journalism.” (Oh, gimme a break! As if Fox News didn’t regale us ad nauseam with silly journalism. Obama’s vacation spending, his radical college friends, what he puts on his hamburger, etc. etc. etc. ) Why, Rove pontificated, didn’t they investigate what Barack Obama did as a community organizer? Or Reverend Wright's comments. (Because Fox News has already done it, that’s why!).
Van Susteren fed him all the proper lines. “All right, jobs -- that's what so many Americans talk to when you actually get out from the Beltway and you go across the country. People are scared to death. Their houses are underwater… Is jobs still the issue for November?”
Yes absolutely, Rove replied, the economy is top of everyone’s list. ”This is why the administration welcomes things like a discussion of celebrity dinners in Los Angeles or Governor Romney's pranks when he was in high school. They'd like to be talking about anything but jobs....Seventy-five to eighty percent of the American people think we're still in a recession. Two thirds of the American people think that the president's policies have either had no effect on the economy or have hurt the economy.” (If there’s good economic news, then trust Turd Blossom not to mention it. We’re much more use to Fox if we’re scared witless of the future.)
Back to same-sex marriage. Will it be a factor, asked Van Susteren. “Yes. It'll be a factor,” Rove replied, “but it's going to pale in significance to the economy, but it will have an impact. It'll have both a positive and a negative impact for President Obama. It will energize gay activists. It will get him some more money. It will help him among younger voter… it will matter in a couple of close states. I don't think it's going to decide the contest because the contest is going to be economy, jobs, deficit spending, Affordable Care Act, and throughout that all, the question of leadership.”
I guess that this election, since the Republicans have the evangelical family-values vote sewn up, they’re going to focus on winning moderates over to Romney. Hence the playing down of same-sex marriage and the playing up of economic issues. Does that mean there will be no more stories about the First Lady wearing designer sneakers to a food bank? I wish; but somehow, I kinda doubt it.
Why Democrats and Democratic pundits don’t constantly call them out on this is a mystery.
But the double standard is consistent: If Rove and his PAC put out an attack ad against Obama, they’re “just pointing out the facts” (to the delight of Sean Hannity). If a Democratic PAC puts out an attack ad against Romney, it’s “just politics.” That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Non-whites and gays didn’t have rights at Romney’s school when he was a kid, they’re not going to have rights in his country when he’s president. And Romney can’t even see how that offends people, he’s turning on smokescreens to try deflecting the scrutiny.
So it’s hardly a minor or petty story, Rove… if Romney is willing to go this far against what he disagrees with, the US at the wrong side of a major international incident is not a matter of “if”, but “when”.
In response, the GOP desperately tries to fog up the issue by bringing up stories from Obama’s memoirs. First, Hannity brings up Obama discussing his own delinquent behavior in high school. Except that the story only really says that Obama at the time was trying to tune out and numb himself, which is not the same thing as attacking your fellow students, much less leading a mob attack. Hannity tries to spice this up by “just asking” how Obama then got into Harvard. Thankfully, last night one of his Panel guests called him on this, openly challenging him to admit that he’s saying that Obama didn’t deserve to go to Harvard. Hannity dodged the question, but it was at least asked. (And for the record, Obama didn’t go directly to Harvard. He went to Occidental and Columbia Colleges, where he had to actually apply himself, and based on that, he later got into Harvard Law.)
Then, Hannity really pushes it by bringing up what he says is an example of Obama bullying someone. Except that the example is of a 10 year old Obama in elementary school being taunted by a bunch of kids for talking to a girl and behaving badly toward her and them. So let’s see if we can find the commonality. Romney led an attack on a boy he didn’t like when he was 18 years old and effectively an adult about to go to college; Obama didn’t respond well to taunting when he was 10 years old in elementary school. Yeah, that’s the same… Riiiight.
(And I won’t even go into Hannity trying to make an issue out of Obama quoting the kinds of sermons that woke him up to the injustice in the world around him…)
And to top it off, you have O’Reilly and Rove trying to play the game of, “Well, this is silly on the part of both sides.” Granted, O’Reilly does have a point that it’s not an answer for the right wing to answer the charges with a ridiculous assertion about Obama. But it doesn’t negate the charges.
The reality is that Romney just isn’t that appealing of a candidate – mostly because voters sense he’s remote and superior, and because he does have a history for doing things that indicate a lower level for compassion for those not part of his inner circle. Beating up a kid he didn’t like and putting his dog on the roof of his car are indicators of the same mindset.