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ROVE IN ALABAMA


In our opinion
10-05-2004

Forget Peoria. When Bush political strategist Karl Rove trots out his latest campaign strategy, he does so with the knowledge of what plays well in Prattville, Pell City and Piedmont.

The Atlantic Monthly's latest edition offers a glimpse of Rove's tactics as they played out in campaigns in Alabama 10 years ago.

Writer Joshua Green shows how many of the unsavory tactics Rove is using on behalf of George W.

Bush's 2004 reelection bid were employed by the campaign consultant in Alabama State Supreme Court races during the 1990s.

In terms of results - and that is what counts above all else in the cutthroat world of politics - Rove has been fabulously successful, turning what was once an all-Democrat court into one dominated by Republicans.

The aftershocks of Rove's campaign style are still felt. "Activist judges" and "trial lawyers" are two favorites of Rove. Both buzzwords have lingered in campaigns here and have been exported to the national stage, where Bush and Dick Cheney liberally season their speeches with such terms intended to scare voters.

The magazine examines another Rove tactic that would be familiar to voters who've watched the smear campaign launched against John Kerry's heroic Vietnam service.

Rove prefers the head-on style of attacking an opponent at his or her strongest point.

Hence, a decorated war hero named John Kerry who volunteered for the Navy, volunteered for Vietnam and volunteered for service on a dangerous swift boat endured a rough August. Kerry was left to answer if he actually earned his medals. Most making these charges were supporters of Bush, whose Vietnam-era record still contains massive holes.

Rove used a similar ploy against Democratic incumbent Mark Kennedy in 1996. Rove's jujitsu style meant taking on Kennedy's record of advocating on behalf of neglected children.

Atlantic Monthly writer Green reports: "Some of Kennedy's campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one showing him holding hands with children. 'We were trying to counter the positives from that ad,' a former Rove staffer told me, explaining that some within the [Harold] See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile."

Rove refused to comment for the article.

Kennedy is quoted as saying, "People in Alabama vote for two reasons. Anger and fear. It's a state that votes against somebody rather than for them."

So, what are we to make from this sordid airing of Alabama's dirty laundry?

First, Rove is managing to expand this fear tactic nationwide, as seen recently when key Bush-Cheney campaigners argued that Kerry would be soft on terrorists and that his election would lead to another al-Qaida attack.

Secondly, assuming The Atlantic got the details right, Alabamians should ask hard questions of candidates, especially those running for judgeships, who are willing to allow this type of dirty campaigning to be done on their behalf.

And lastly, our citizens might be shamed that such unethical gossip and unconfirmed rumor holds so much sway in this state.

Alabamians are a people who cling so tightly to a high moral standard and brag so frequently of possessing upright character. People reading October's Atlantic Monthly have reason to believe otherwise.

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