Fighting Rove and Co.

Madam President: Shattering the Last Glass Ceiling

by Eleanor Clift

Web-Exclusive Commentary

Newsweek Updated: 2:11 p.m. ET June 16, 2006 –
June 16, 2006 – Our towel-snapping president is feeling better. He joked and jostled with the press for almost an hour, high on adrenalin after his secret trip to Baghdad. Thanks to skilled lawyering, his adviser Karl Rove is back in business framing the November election as a referendum on cut-and-run Democrats. Rove is following a time-honored tactic: hang a lantern on your problem. Iraq is George Bush’s biggest problem, ergo Rove’s strategy: showcase the war, frame the choice between victory and defeatism, put the Democrats on the defensive. Moments after learning he had escaped indictment in the CIA leak investigation case, Rove told New Hampshire Republicans that Democratic critics of the war like John Kerry and John Murtha “give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough, they fall back on that party’s old platform of cutting and running. They may be with you for the first few bullets, but they won’t be there for the last tough battles.” It’s appalling that an administration led by chicken hawks dares to build an election strategy based on lecturing combat veterans, but it is devilishly clever, and it might work. The Swift Boat veterans destroyed Kerry in 2004; and in 2002, losing three limbs in Vietnam didn’t save Georgia Sen. Max Cleland from attacks on his patriotism. Rove told the GOP faithful that if the Democrats were in charge, Iraq would fall to the terrorists and Zarqawi would not be dead. As offensive as those words are, Rove is doing his job, which is sliming the Democrats so Republicans can cling to power on Capitol Hill. He is politicizing the war for partisan political gain, a strategy that could backfire if events on the ground in Iraq deteriorate.

The Democrats need to sit down and have a serious powwow. The leaders of the party need to figure out how to get everyone together. When I say everyone, I mean everyone including environmentalists, the antiwar crowd, the pro-choice crowd, the unions and the independence all need to come together for this election. If not, liberals will again be divided in conquered.

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