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"Five axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans:

1. Boy, we hate Americans.

2. We really do.

3. Really.

4. I'm not kidding. We really hate them.

5. So how come they never pay us any attention?"

--Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1997, p.105.


Sunday, June 16, 2002

Secrets of the DoDo. Since Oxblog is on a brief hiatus, allow me to ask "what's with Maureen Dowd's column today?" Titled "Secrets of the Yo-Yos," it seems to be an attempt to slam Karl Rove for...well, for something, but it's hard to figure out what.

First, there are the largely incomprehensible bits of name-calling:

But now, tragically, we discover you're just another PowerPoint pinhead with a color-coded chart.

A megalomaniac marooned in the banality of demography.

PowerPoint pinhead? Banality of demography? Ms. Dowd, I have read William Safire, and you, Ms. Dowd, are no William Safire.

The rest of the article entails Dowd trying to make some hay out of a PowerPoint file by Rove that inadvertently came into the possession of a Democratic Senate staffer and was leaked. The file -- and this detail is important -- is a "confidential analysis of the 2002 election by Karl Rove and the White House political director Kenneth Mehlman." She offers quotes from the file, and then explains why they demonstrate Rove's stupidity and/or evil nature.

Let me try an experiment. First I will present just the excerpts from Rove's file. Let's see if they appear objectionable. Then I will present the Dowd critique:

"Maintain Base...." including "Farmers, Ranchers, Coal & Steel."

"Identify Issue Synergies...."

"Maintain a positive issue environment...."

"Presidents' standing matters...."

"Focus on War."

"Promote Compassion Agenda."

Democrats will "question the President's Middle East Strategy."

Democrats will attack the G.O.P. with "the Budget, Tax Cuts and Enron for Class Warfare."

"Summary of Recent Data"
--"No evidence that Enron attacks, POTUS political activity or economy has significantly impacted the President's rating."

The economy is "recovering."

The maps and charts bear the stamp of Rove's "Office of Strategic Inititatives."

How offended are you by these items? Admittedly, the term "issue synergies" makes me wince, but that's just because I spend too much of my time listening to people genuflect before synergies of the economic kind. But do any of these strike you as stupid, evil, or otherwise beyond the pale?

If you are Maureen Dowd, they do. And here's why:

The Rove doctrine is simple in the extreme: "Maintain Base." The base he lists sounds like a lyric from "Oklahoma!" — "Farmers, Ranchers, Coal & Steel." Even before we learned Mr. Rove's deepest, darkest secrets, we had already cottoned on to the fact that looser standards on coal dust and higher steel tariffs were campaign initiatives.

Ah, that rapier wit. Of course, the Rove doctrine is slightly more complex, as it entails a four-pronged outreach effort to reconstruct the old Reagan coalition and even appeal to some Latinos and African-Americans as well (see slide #21), but that would detract from both Dowd's "pocket of the moneyed interests" angle and from her attempt to paint Rove as a dullard.

"Identify Issue Synergies," the White House political team exhorts. What on earth is an issue synergy? Is that the intersection between Enron and Halliburton?

Ha. A joke about Enron. One item Dowd doesn't mention -- the slide with "issue synergy" is not one of Karl Rove's slides, but is rather one of Mehlman's slides (see slide #10). This doesn't make me dislike the term "issue synergies" any less. But it does speak to Dowd's lack of interest in adhering to the facts when trying to slime someone.

"Maintain a positive issue environment," they instruct. Not a positive global environment, of course, just a positive issue environment.

Ha, ha. Because, you see, the Bush Republicans don't care about the environment. And they're simply venal politicians. Guess what? This is from the same Mehlman slide.

In midterm elections, they intone, "Presidents' standing matters." No kidding.

Ha, ha, ha. Because this is obvious. And in fact this phrase does seem a bit fatuous, once Ms. Dowd brackets it within pejorative terms. Would it make a difference to know that this phrase is the heading on a slide (#17) that presents data displaying the average number of house seats lost in mid-term elections by the party that controls the White House as a function of the President's popularity rating? From this slide, I now know a great deal about exactly how much the President's standing influences mid-term Congressional races. But you would never know that from Ms. Dowd; she had a choice between 1) smarmily taking this out of context to bash Rove and 2) keeping it in context and addressing its content. Smarminess wins!

Karl urges Republicans to "Focus on War." Milking that war again.

Ha, ha, ha, ha. Because these slimy Repblicans are exploiting the war for political gain. In fact, Rove's slide says: "Focus on War and Economy." Gee, I wonder why Ms. Dowd omits this part. I guess "Milking that recessionary economy" doesn't imply the same kind of amoral venality that she's hoping to present.

And "Promote Compassion Agenda." Not compassion itself, mind you, just the trompe l'oeil agenda.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Because Dowd does not agree with the Administration on many social issues, and this must mean that the Administration lacks compassion, and merely paying lip service to the idea of compassion. In fact, Rove's slide says: "Promote Compassion Agenda -- Education, Welfare, Faith." This would appear to spell out three tenets of policy that the Administration does believe are compassionate. (You may not agree with these -- I may not -- but it's absurd to sneer at the term as an optical illusion.)

And what if Rove's slide had said "Promote Compassion?" Do you imagine that Dowd would have been happier? I expect that she would have slammed him for paying lip service to compassion without having any agenda to make it happen.

Karl predicts that the Democrats will "question the President's Middle East Strategy." The Democrats might do that if they can ever figure out what the president's Middle East strategy is.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Because Bush doesn't seem to have a coherent Middle East strategy. Well, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The politico also thinks the Democrats will pound the G.O.P. with "the Budget, Tax Cuts and Enron for Class Warfare." Why must the Democrats always pester the Haves with that Have-Not piffle?

In his "Summary of Recent Data," Karl happily reports: "No evidence that Enron attacks, POTUS political activity or economy has significantly impacted the President's rating." A predictable insight into the Rove world view. He worries about Enron as a potential political attack rather than an economic calamity in which thousands of people lost their shirts and their jobs.

So let me get this straight. Rove is a political advisor. His job is to consider political issues, and assess the political ramifications of various events. He develops a presentation to put forth a set of political strategies. And Dows is outraged that, in that context, Rove evaluates the political fallout from Enron? If, at this point in his slides, he were to dedicate one to "Enron -- think of the children!" then I would be outraged.

And the phrase "POTUS political activity" is an acknowledgment that despite the strenuous public attempts of aides to mythologize W. as someone who always does the right thing, rather than the calculated thing, this president, like the one he succeeded, can put pragmatism over principle.

As opposed to which other Presidents?

Mr. Rove sanguinely refers to the deeply jittery economy as "recovering," making it sound like a movie star at a Malibu rehab center.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Because...well, I don't really know why this is supposed to be funny. But clearly it is outrageous that Rove would be so "sanguine" about the economy as to call it "recovering."

Here are a few others who have commented on the economy recently: "Risks remain but economy recovering: Greenspan"; "Strong exports suggest US, world economy recovering: PM [Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia]"; "U.S. Economy Bounces Back" by Eric Pfanner of the International Herald Tribune; "The nation's economic recovery progressed at a modest pace in late April and May, although improvements were spotty, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday" [from USA Today]; and my own favorite, "Many Signs of a Recovery, Except Among Investors," in the Ms. Dowd's own New York Times.

But it is expedient to be able to snipe about Rove's use of the term, especially when that clock is ticking and you've still got about 300 words left to write.

The maps and charts bear the stamp of the chief political adviser's "Office of Strategic Inititatives." The name sounds uncomfortably close to the Office of Strategic Influence, the shadowy department in the Pentagon that was going to plant deliberately false stories in the foreign press — before word leaked out and Rummy was forced to shut it.

Ha, ha, ha, -- huh? The name sounds what to what? This is insight? It sure isn't humor. Apparently Ms. Dowd is outraged that Rove's office has an acronym similar to that of some other office that Dowd (and many others) disliked. Talk about guilt by association!

In similar spirit, I would like to note that the columns churned out by this easily-agitated complainer bear the name "Maureen Dowd." The name sounds uncomfortably close to "Mohammed Daoud," one of four followers of Osama bin Laden who were convicted in 2001 for the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Since our tax dollars are paying for this stuff, next time they lose something, let's hope it's a bit more sophisticated.

Ah. And the broken clock is right for the second time this day. As noted here:

"As an office funded by taxpayer dollars, [the Office for Strategic Initiatives'] use for partisan political purposes is ethically, if not legally, challenged, with the Democrats suggesting that Bush aides were using taxpayer funds for work that should be done at the RNC."

Nevertheless, the tally shows that although Dowd (or "Daoud") does her best to launch a blistering attack on Karl Rove -- relying on a series of cheap shots that appear ethically, if not legally, challenged -- she barely manages to land even two light taps. If I actually paid to read the NYT, I might say that "since my subscription fees are paying for this stuff, next time I hope it's a bit more sophisticated."
More info on al Queda from Morocco authorities. The three al Qaeda operatives arrested in Morocco appear to be providing additional insight into al Qaeda's post-Afghanistan strategy:

Besieged by U.S. and allied forces in December in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden commanded his fighters to disperse across the globe to attack "American and Jewish interests," according to accounts officials here say they have obtained from three al Qaeda operatives who were captured in Morocco....

The U.S. has expressed great gratitude for Morocco's efforts in rooting out terrorists:

Western officials here described Moroccan cooperation as "extraordinary."

"The Moroccans take very seriously their 225-year-old relationship with the United States," said a Western diplomat. "There is damn good cooperation. . . . They're serious."

Now if only the Saudi government -- and guess which country the three al Qaeda operatives arrested in Morocco are from? -- would be as cooperative.

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