Cole in Salon: The Poisonous Legacy of Karl Rove

My Salon column is out: The poisonous rhetorical legacy of Karl Rove

Even Fox’s Chris Wallace wants to know why Bush’s newly departed advisor had to paint Democrats as traitors.


‘ [Chris] Wallace followed up by asking Rove to justify the notorious June 22, 2005, speech he gave before the New York Conservative Party, in which he alleged that Democrats were soft on terror. It is worth recalling at length what Rove said on that occasion: “Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban; in the wake of 9/11, liberals believed it was time to … submit a petition.”

Rove’s diatribe depended for its effect on a series of deft substitutions, both explicit and implied. First, he misrepresented liberals by coding, the grass-roots Internet activists who did urge alternatives to a frontal assault on the Taliban, as representative of liberal opinion generally. Then, by mentioning Democratic Party figures such as Howard Dean and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, he implied that he was speaking about that party. Unless we assume that most Democrats are not liberals, then the attack was certainly partisan. It was also false. In polling soon after the 2001 attacks, 84 percent of self-identified liberals supported military action in response, and 80 percent of Democrats favored war against Afghanistan. Democratic members of Congress largely supported the Afghanistan war as well, with the senators voting for it unanimously. ‘

Read the whole thing.

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