Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 18, 2010

ROVE'S RECOVERY RESERVATIONS.... Just this week, it seems we're starting to see conservatives worry about the state of the American economy. And by that I mean, they're concerned it's starting to improve in ways that may undermine Republicans' campaign plans.

Some of this was evident when House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) tried to move the goal posts, arguing that government efforts that create jobs aren't good enough. Karl Rove appeared on Fox News yesterday to argue that the economy is growing, but policymakers should get no credit for the progress.

"This in many ways is a false debate," Rove said. "The economy is stabilized compared to where it was a year ago, but is it because the government has spent $200 billion in the stimulus program? I don't think so."

"If you take a look worldwide, the Federal Reserve and the central banks have injected $30 trillion into the world economy," Rove continued, before acknowledging: "Again, the economy is going to recover, no ifs, ands, or buts."

As a substantive matter, Rove, who's never demonstrated any credible understanding of public policy on any level, has no idea what he's talking about. For grown-ups, the fact that the recovery effort stabilized the economy is no longer open to debate -- the NYT reported yesterday, citing a consensus among economists, that the economy would not have improved without the stimulus.

But also note, there's just a touch of fear in Rove's spin. It's as if he realizes that his party may be peaking seven months too early, and that a stronger economy in the coming months may change the electoral equation in ways the GOP is unprepared for.

Indeed, National Review started pushing the line yesterday that the economy is starting to pick up in earnest, but that's awful news because "the Obama deficits" will have to be "paid for by our children."

What a sad little spin.

All of this may just be preventative rhetoric, laying the groundwork just in case the economy improves significantly this year. Either way, though, it seems Republicans are feeling a little antsy about this, and are starting to mull over strategies to downplay developments that are good for the country, but bad for their campaign strategy.

Something to keep an eye on.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

Quote: 'What a sad little spin.'

It may be sad, but it's also dangerous. Unfortunately most American sheeple accept the spin as fact.

Posted by: Bill From PA on February 18, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it is just "preventive rhetoric, laying the groundwork just in case the economy improves significantly this year".

But guess what? Doing this kind of thing works.

When's the last time you saw Congressional Dems "laying the groundwork" or engaging in "preventive rhetoric" months in advance of a goal they wanted to work toward?

Posted by: Tracer Hand on February 18, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Obama gave the American public too much credit for being smart, he knew his policy would bring the economy back from the edge, and thought the masses would see this. That was his mistake - having faith in the American people, it is a sad fact that they would rather accept a lie than the truth.

Posted by: JS on February 18, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Remember, the Republicans don't care if every single thing they do is wrong, counterproductive, destructive to our economy or our place in the world. All they care about is whether their policy prescriptions get votes.

Democrats need to educate voters so fewer ignorant folks vote for the GOP.

Posted by: freelunch on February 18, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

When's the last time you saw Congressional Dems "laying the groundwork" or engaging in "preventive rhetoric" months in advance of a goal they wanted to work toward?

I agree - preemptive spin is needed. Obama seems to be taking it up. Rachel Maddow is too. How to spread the word is the problem - but the Dems seem incapable of propaganda.

Posted by: Marc on February 18, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

The pushback on Republican hypocrisy is good, and gaining traction. CNN even had a piece this morning that slammed Cantor and others, largely because the DNC did the legwork for the piece with a new web ad.

Keep 'em coming, folks.

Posted by: TR on February 18, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

On a personal level... I just got one of those email lies about Obama. The funny thing is, the personal comment from the sender said, "It's another lie," and it was from the wife of one of the fellows who sends me this stuff. Usually, I check out the email on Snopes and send my reply to this guy. Maybe he and his wife are beginning to catch on?

Posted by: pol on February 18, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

National Review: "the Obama deficits" will have to be "paid for by our children."

Yeah, nice of them to wake up about deficits, now that Bush isn't available to kick around anymore.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on February 18, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Why do Republicans and their Wall Street buddies hate the American worker?

Posted by: bleh on February 18, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

"All they care about is whether their policy prescriptions get votes." freelunch @ 8:44

It's only the means to an end. The real objective is the transfer of wealth to those pulling the strings. ALWAYS - follow the money. For years the GOP played the xtian conservatives to get their votes without making progress on their top issues (abortion, vouchers, etc). Don't be so damn sure the Donkeys aren't playing the same game in their own way given their aversion to actually producing HCR and tighter banking oversight.

Posted by: Chopin on February 18, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

National Review started pushing the line yesterday that the economy is starting to pick up in earnest, but that's awful news because "the Obama deficits" will have to be "paid for by our children."

The one thing I don't hear argued (or at least argued enough) by the Democrats is that the national deficit wouldn't be in any better shape had we adopted the Republican's "spending freeze for everybody but our good friends in the military industrial complex" strategy. The deeper and the longer the recession, the less revenue collected creating more deficit anyway. Republicans would counter that cuts would then have to be made to discretionary spending, but that would only increase the downward trajectory of the spiral and besides discretionary spending isn't all that much of the budget. Only two budgetary items are large enough to make a dent in the deficit, entitlements and defense. It doesn't take a genius to figure which one of those two the GOP would be keen on cutting, or more appropriately, gutting.

Posted by: tempered optimism on February 18, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Next steps:
1) Try to claim Bush policies are responsible for any recovery. There is danger here because it might remind the electorate that we did have a President Bush from 2001-2009 and the Republicans ran the government. Everyone seems to have forgotten right now.
2) Talk down any recovery. Still 10% unemployment, we can best help the unemployed by cutting their taxes. Or renewing the Bush tax cuts. Keeping the Estate Tax low will eliminate uncertainty and allow more hiring. Yeah, that's the ticket.
3) Use any recovery as an excuse not to tackle Health Care Reform. Or Financial Reform. Can't make changes while the economy is improving, we might de-rail the recovery.
3)

Posted by: VOR on February 18, 2010 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I think the conservative resurgence reached its peak right around when the economy hit its trough. That puts 'em about 6 months out of phase with reality. My sense is that they aren't going to win as big as they think. This is not '94.

That said, too many people on the left seem to think that you actually have to be in phase with reality to win elections. The mistake is in powerful people underestimating their ability to create reality. They're just too damn rational for politics.

Objective truth in the form of statistics isn't enough. Being right and being smart isn't enough. The Dems have got to get better at defining their own view of things.

We DID save the economy from a depression.
We ARE laying the groundwork for a more competitive, productive, prosperous America.
We WILL make things right again.

Say it loud...I'm a hack and I'm proud!

Posted by: itstrue on February 18, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The pushback on Republican hypocrisy is good, and gaining traction. CNN even had a piece this morning that slammed Cantor and others, largely because the DNC did the legwork for the piece with a new web ad.

And the sooner the Democrats wake up to the fact that America no longer has a vibrant journalism, but rather a bunch of lazy announcers calling pre-scripted play-by-plays that get handed to them, the better. So start handing off.

P.S. Oh, and it helps if there's good video to go along with it.

P.S.S. Plus cultivating relationships with the media is a must.

Posted by: tempered optimism on February 18, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Agreed that economy will impact '10 elections significantly. Agree that economy improved somewhat overall by good policy. But jobs aren't improving fast enough at this point. 473K new unemployments is still very high. Not good. Need a jobs bill. Need Senator Reid to explain why he pulled the bipartisan jobs bill? I heard crickets.

Posted by: Scott F. on February 18, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

What does it say about a country whose leaders of the group which largely are responsible for making the policies which have taken the world to the absolute brink of finacial disaster and now that another group has taken power do anything and everything they possibly can and then some to cause that group to fail and push the country to final disaster. And the reason they do this is to regain power. What does this say about their minds, souls, and spirit?

Posted by: Chris on February 18, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the preacher who claimed credit for praying Murtha to death can do the same thing to the economy...?

Posted by: Kreniigh on February 18, 2010 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Need Senator Reid to explain why he pulled the bipartisan jobs bill? I heard crickets.

I think that died in Massachusetts.

Posted by: oh well on February 18, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

For grown-ups, the fact that the recovery effort stabilized the economy is no longer open to debate -- the NYT reported yesterday, citing a consensus among economists, that the economy would not have improved without the stimulus.

Clearly, you are the one who has no idea what he's talking about. It is true that the stimulus helped (and that's of course the subject of the NYT article), but you're implying the stimulus by itself made the difference, when it most assuredly did not - and certainly the NYT article you cite doesn't make that claim.

The reasons we aren't in a depression now are: a) TARP and b) the trillions in liquidity the Fed pumped into the economy. Were it not for these other efforts - we'd be in the midst of Great Depression II, stimulus or no.

The stimulus did boost the economy, but the idea that injecting $270B into the economy (which is approximately the amount of stimulus disbursed so far) somehow halted a steep economic contraction that wiped out over $3T in wealth doesn't just strain credulity; it's downright absurd.

Posted by: abb on February 18, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"paid for by our children"... as are his speaking fees at UC Santa Barbara, which the kids are protesting about. Good for them.

Posted by: Mlou on February 18, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately most American sheeple accept the spin as fact.

Are you talking about the same American "sheeple" who still support Obama and reject Republicans more than they reject Democrats? If not, why insult Americans when you're only referring to a small minority of them?

Because no, people AREN'T this stupid. For as hard as Republicans tried to credit Clinton's economy to Bush Sr or tried to blame Bush Jr's economy on Clinton, people didn't believe it. And polls clearly show that people blame Bush for our current economic woes, despite Republican spin. And if the economy has improved as much as Republicans like Rove seem to fear it will, people will credit Obama for it. The effects of Republican spin have been vastly exagerated, as the only people who buy it are the ones who were already on-board.

But don't listen to me. Go on naysaying and insisting that people are stupid and won't notice that the economy improved, and if things have improved by November and Republicans don't make significant gains in either house, you'll have something else to naysay. Why you people still think we always get beat by the people who keep losing to us is beyond me.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 18, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Karl Rove made such a pig's ear of the midterms in 2006 that everyone agreed he had inadvertently mixed his marbles with his mojo, and lost both. Banking on that would be a mistake. He's still a very savvy guy who's been in politics pretty much his whole life, and lives for nothing else. He also still wields considerable influence with the Republicans. Good governance is so far down his list of priorities that I doubt it sees the light of day in the average year. Bet you know what's at the top of it though; that's right, winning elections.

One thing Rove is good at is seeding public perception with misconceptions that, owing to predispositions and prejudices, become truth in spite of their essential untruth. You can combat that by constantly broadcasting the truth in such a manner that it is not subject to argument. The problem with that is that the American people now live with the near-constant low grade hum of political advertising in their ear, struggling for their attention. They must be tired of it, of the year-round campaigning and polling. I'd be surprised if 4 in 10 people responded honestly to a poll any more, I'd bet better than half just say whatever will get them off the phone fastest, or their answer is clouded by the news report they just heard - which frequently turns out to be inaccurate.

I don't know what can be done to get the message through, but the people have to be getting sick of being herded this way and that.

Posted by: Mark on February 18, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

[Rove's] still a very savvy guy...

No, he's not. He was a cheap thug who worked in smoke & mirrors, and whose greatest move was in convincing anyone he was a very savvy guy. But he almost blew the 2000 election when his failed ju-jitsu had Bush futilely campaigning in California when he should have been in Florida, was barely able to defeat a relatively weak opponent in 2004, and completely blew 2006. After that, he was damaged goods.

Look, there's a reason Rove's now a political analyst instead of a political advisor: He's a bozo with a lousy record. Same goes for Dick Cheney. Their only power comes from people who insist they're powerful. Stop giving them power. Rove's a failure, plain and simple.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 18, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

When's the last time you saw Congressional Dems "laying the groundwork" or engaging in "preventive rhetoric" months in advance of a goal they wanted to work toward?

Oooh, I know! Pick me!

Nancy Pelosi was maneuvered into taking impeachment off the table before we even knew the extent of the Bush Administration's crimes and misdemeanors. Um, wait, that's a bad example...

Posted by: Gregory on February 18, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

I'm simply arguing that Rove should not be misunderestimated. The only person who could spend a lifetime in politics and learn absolutely nothing is Harry Reid. Whoops, and James Inhofe, too. OK, Michele Bachmann. All right, there are some, but Rove isn't one of them. I don't mean to establish him as some kind of evil genius, but if the Republicans had followed his most recent advice (avoid mindless obstruction, support Obama when he's right, oppose him when he's wrong and obstruct only based on the merits) they'd be sitting even prettier than they are now, even if they had supported Democratic initiatives that worked.

Rove does have a lousy record, but I would argue against his being a bozo. It looks more to me like he began to believe his own hype, and that he convinced himself he had some kind of magic prescience. He's certainly a lot smarter than some of the present hoarse barking crackpots the Republicans listen to, like Cantor and McConnell and DeMint.

Posted by: Mark on February 18, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

By the time the Republicans are through, there won't be a republic for their children to pay taxes to. How convenient.

Posted by: Rob on February 18, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mark - But he's been believing his hype the entire time, including the 2000 incident I cited. The man's ALL hype. That was his gimmick back when he first established his reputation by getting Bush into the Governor's Mansion here in Texas. It was all about adopting an air of invincibility, which required him to make stupid moves, like visiting a state that he couldn't win.

But getting Texans to support a moderate-conservative in Texas was easy when the guys name was George Bush. His real genius was in getting people to giggle about how Ann Richards was gay, Gore was a dweeb, and Kerry was a flip-flopper. It's the dirty tricks and name-calling that worked for him. The political ju-jitsu never panned out, as he always ended up out-witting himself.

And yes, I do now recall that Rove was giving Republicans the same advice I was giving at the time, but all the same, his advice was ignored. He's an analyst, not an advisor. And his power was in being a thug, not in being saavy. This advice of Rove's isn't new, as he had Bush take the high road too. But it only worked because he had thugs working the gutters. And even still, his record is shakey. He can spin the economy all he wants, but it won't mean a thing.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 18, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

I sure hope you're right. Rove is a toad, but the last thing the world needs is a smart, unscrupulous toad that can be persuaded to ignore its short-term self-interest in favour of long-term self-interest.

Posted by: Mark on February 18, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's true that any "Obama deficits" will have to be paid by our children. But the Bush deficits will have to be paid by our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren. Maybe even our great-great-grandchildren, if anyone survives until then.

Posted by: josef on February 18, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, if the republicans are concerned about our children suffering from long-term effects from all of our crises, then perhaps they shouldn't have created all the crises in the first place. Scum, the lot of them.

Posted by: N.Wells on February 18, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Hey - does anyone remember? . . . January, 2003, Bush talking out his kiester about his Tax Cuts; 17 million new jobs A MONTH. Then, Fliescher had to issue a "revised" figure, of something around 150,000 a month. . . (ie. not even keeping up with population growth).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on February 18, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK
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