WASHINGTON -- Karl Rove is a mild-mannered, studious fellow, well read, perfectly polite, very intelligent -- though without the hauteur that often goes with that debility. He beams benignity. Thus it amuses me to see him made out to be the monster of Democratic nightmares. And it amuses me again to envisage him, seated in his White House office, as another report of Democratic dudgeon arrives at his desk provoked by some perfectly unexceptional decision by his boss.
What was Rove's response when he heard that the Democrats were charging him and the President with unconscionable intrigue for scheduling the State of the Union speech the night after the Iowa caucuses? Did the mild-mannered Rove laugh? Did he wince? Did he turn to the sports page? The Democrats made the scheduling out to be darkest Machiavellianism. It was a news story for at least two days, which, in modern America, is an epoch.
Who would have thought such indignation could be mustered by the Democrats over such mundane business? And days before the State of the Union Rove's suave and amiable boss ventured forth to lay a wreath in homage to Martin Luther King. What did Rove think when that too caused outrage amongst Democrats, particularly Democrats of the African-American variety. Or how about the Democrats' reaction to the economy? After a series of tax cuts the President has the economy percolating at a vigorous rate. Growth was 8.2 percent in the third quarter of 2003. What is the Democrats' response to that? Do they quietly pass on to some other more sustainable grievance, say, in this frigid winter their hysteria over "global warming"?
No, they erupt in their trademark reaction, anger. They claim that during the recession (a recession that began under their last Democratic president and was, under this Republican President, shallow and brief) millions of jobs were lost. Well when have jobs not been lost in a recession? Job expansion is always the last phase in an economic recovery. Or consider what has become a popular Democratic response to the moderation of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi in the aftermath of our liberation of Iraq. Again one might expect the Democrats to avert their gaze from this obvious Bush triumph. Instead the Democrats roar that the Libyan demarche was long in the works.
Now they are mocking the President for failing somehow to create a more civil tone in the nation's political discourse. Do they come up with any instances of billingsgate from the President? Has he whined that he is afflicted by "Bush-haters"? Not at all, the evidence the Democrats advance to support their charge that the President is responsible for Washington's rude rhetoric is his insistence on pursuing Republican policies, not Democratic policies. Meanwhile the President stoically stands by as Al Gore calls him a "moral coward," and Richard Gephardt derides him as a "miserable failure." That last term caught on despite Bush's victories in the war on terror and against Iraq, followed by the rebounding economy.
I would like to know how Rove and his colleagues take all this Democratic outrage and hypocrisy. Something about their boss infuriates Democrats. The other day I overheard a group of otherwise sensible Democratic politicians abominate the President for the way he walks (he swaggers), talks (he sneers), and dresses (cowboy boots). There is something odd about this.
The Democrats will tell you that the source of their complaint is that this president is "far to the right." Yet he is no further to the right than President Ronald Reagan was. In fact this is the second presidency in two decades to follow a course steered by the modern, post-World War II conservative movement. One would think that the Democrats would greet this peaceful, perfectly normal historic evolution with a semblance of equanimity. What makes them so hysterical?
Apparently they thought that America would never change. They expected to maintain one-party domination of the country's politics much as they have maintained one-party domination of its culture. Well, look around you my Democratic friends. Look at the Internet, talk radio, the Fox Network, the intellectual reviews. You are losing cultural dominance too. As the surly feminists are wont to say, "Get used to it."
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the editor in chief of The American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute. His book, Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House, will be published in February.
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