The odious Mr. Rove was and probably still is the King of Republican Slime, joined at the hip to George W. Bush along the trail of devastation that we know today as the political career of America’s Worst President. Mr. Rove has been described as “America’s Joseph Goebbels,” a master of fascist demagoguery and an outright liar. In his heyday in the Bush II White House, he directed “a formidable political dirty tricks operation and disinformation mill.”
This was the man who stunk up the American political system by distributing flyers inviting street people to a Democratic candidate’s meeting promising free beer, food and girls, falsely accusing John McCain of fathering a dark-skinned baby out of wedlock (after Mr. McCain, then challenging Mr. Bush, with his wife adopted a Sri Lankan girl), famously outing CIA agent Valerie Plame when her diplomat husband authored a report the Bush Administration did not like, and engaging in countless other dirty tricks, lies, smears and worse.
Notwithstanding our prime minister’s cynical effort to pour oil on the troubled Parliamentary waters yesterday, the federal Conservatives’ 3D campaign of denial, disparagement and delay in the still emerging Afghan torture imbroglio is ripped right out of the Karl Rove playbook. This should come as no surprise, really, as it’s well known that over the years there has been plenty of traffic back and forth across the Medicine Line by the more unsavoury elements of the ideologically identical Republican and Reform/Conservative parties.
Mr. Rove was justly infamous for his startlingly vicious attacks on anyone who showed a chance of beating a candidate for whom he worked. He would not just defeat his foes. If possible he would destroy their careers, their marriages, their families, their lives. No tactic was beyond the pale.
If the opponent was a decorated, wounded, disabled veteran of the Vietnam war, Mr. Rove’s tactics called for branding him a traitor and a coward. If it worked, as it did with Democratic Georgia Senator Max Cleland in 2002, voters could elect instead a typical Republican chickenhawk draft-dodger, served up by Mr. Rove as a real American.
Canadians could see these kinds of tactics at work this week and last in the lockstep attacks by Reform/Conservative ministers and fartcatchers on Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, who alleged in testimony before a Parliamentary committee that prisoners captured by Canadians soldiers in Afghanistan had been handed over to certain torture at the hands of the openly corrupt government of President Hamid Karzai.
Mr. Colvin was all but accused of consorting with the Taliban for his whistleblowing, just as Sen. Cleland was accused in TV ads of sympathizing with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein for daring to criticize Mr. Bush’s catastrophic regime, then in its second year.
For his part, as a high-ranking Ottawa insider, Mr. Colvin must have known what would happen if he spoke aloud about his concerns. After all, this is hardly a new tactic to Mr. Harper’s Ottawa version of the Republican chickenhawks, who puff themselves up and spew their invective on anyone who opposes their plans while real Canadians (including Mr. Colvin as a matter of fact) risk their lives on the dangerous ground of Afghanistan. The fact that he spoke publicly about his concerns anyway lends credence to his assertions.
Remember how the Conservative Slime Machine (CSM) called NDP Leader Jack Layton “Taliban Jack” for daring to suggest that we would get nowhere in Afghanistan without talking with some elements of the Taliban? Today the Karzai government and NATO forces in Afghanistan are doing just that, apparently with the approval of Mr. Harper and his cabinet. One wonders if this makes the prime minister “Taliban Steve”?
When most ordinary Canadians see tactics like those of the Harper Conservatives in action, I believe they can’t quite believe the evidence of their eyes and ears. We are decent people, for the most part, ethical and honorable in our conduct with one another. When we see outright smears like those directed at Mr. Colvin, at least on some level we are anxious to believe what we hear because it is so hard for us to accept that our respected leaders would behave that way.
Well, they do and they will again. We had better get used to it. The government of Stephen Harper is cynical to the core, and its fondness for Rovian Republican tactics is the symptom, not the disease. We Canadians need harder noses and clearer eyes. We need to recognize the CSM for what it is when we see and hear it at work.
Just because Mr. Harper and his ministry are offering us Karl Rove’s Kool-Aid doesn’t mean we have to drink it.