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The bogeyman lives

As Fred Barnes writes, “the lefties and the media. . .are in a dither now that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has cleared [Karl] Rove of any criminal wrongdoing in the overblown leak case involving CIA functionary Valerie Plame.” The Washington Post, for one, isn’t taking the news lying down. Rather, as if on cue, Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz turn to the fall elections as a vehicle for Rove’s long-deferred commuppance. Citing a senior strategist for the campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry, the two Post men claim that Rove’s “reputation as architect of victory at stake.”

But even if the fall election doesn’t go well for Republicans, Rove’s record will be 3-1. While his undeserved reputation as the bogeyman will suffer (or would if his critics were rational), his well-earned reputation as a top-notch strategist is secure.

VandeHei and Balz further manifest their “dither” by sniping at Rove’s role in the second term of the administration. They note that Bush “endured his worst stretch of his preidency when Rove’s powers inside the White House were at their peak.” And they suggest that Rove deserves considerable blame because of his role in attempting to introduce personal savings accounts into the Social Security program.

However, VandeHei and Balz present no evidence that social security — as opposed to the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina — has anything to do with Bush’s low popularity. The facts on social security reform are straightfoward — Bush promised to push for personal savings accounts, Bush pushed for personal savings accounts, the voters weren’t sufficiently behind personal savings accounts. I don’t see how this honorable scenario casts Karl Rove in a bad light. If this administration leaves any legacy with respect to social security, I suspect that legacy will be that it touched the third rail of American politics without getting burned, thus paving the way for future serious discussion.

Lindsey Graham also provides fodder for VandeHei and Balz. Comfortable as usual with Washington’s conventional liberal thinking, Graham opines that Rove is “our go-to guy on politicking” but that he’s been “a mixed bag” when it comes to governing. Graham also believes that Rove will be hampered as a political strategist until the public believes that Republicans can govern effectively.

Does Graham believe that the Republicans are governing effectively? If not, he should explain why. Is the economy doing badly? Are we losing the war on terror? In addition, Graham should state which policies he would like the administration to abandon (other than aggressively interrogating terrorists) and which ones he would like it to adopt.

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