One of my pet peeves is the assignment of grand, historical, Hari Seldon-style powers to Karl Rove. To wit, the other day in New York he said this:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

Liberal Democrats, mostly those six representing the three states that house most 9/11 victims, called for an apology. Some people think this was what Rove wanted all along.

Trouble is, those demands just provide an excuse for Republicans to repeat every single stupid or unpatriotic thing that every Democratic politician ever said. And there are a lot of those. … And because the usual suspects in the media could be expected to pick up on the Rove story much faster than the Durbin story (as they did) now there’s a news hook.

Yeah, he’s pretty smart.

And Glenn links to a bunch of people with the same thoughts. More of this:

Pounding the table about how Democrats aren’t insecure therapy-seeking wimps doesn’t seem like a very helpful argument for the Democrats to be having in the national media.

Goldberg isn’t actually saying that Rove trapped Democrats into doing that, but the sentiments are reflected in the “Rove-a-dope” crowd.

This is why I think Democrats are actually playing this one right.

1.)Rove didn’t plan it. By appearences, the GOP was caught off guard – an organization that can blast Howard Dean within nanoseconds of a gaffe took around 8 hours after Democrats began attacking to come up with a statement. The statement, which spotlights controversial things liberals and Democrats have said about terrorism, is actually fairly crappy – quotes are out of order, big deal quotes are forgotten (Sen. Patty Murray’s praise of a humanitarian bin Laden), most of the quotes don’t actually reactions to 911, and it’s apparently assembled from other old press releases.

By all means, politicans in the Rovesphere often bait their opponents. In mid-2004, George Bush started putting a line in his speeches about whether John Kerry would still vote “yes” on the Iraq force resolution. The intention, as revealed by Newsweek and in “Boy Genius,” was to bait Kerry into responding with a gaffe, and it sort of worked (he said he would have voted for it because it was “the right authority for a president to have,” which nonetheless reinforced his flip-lop image).

But given the speed of response, the nature of the quote (the “therapy” part seems to be a riff on a Liam Neeson line in Batman Begins), and the location, it would seem that Rove was just giving a red meat speech and the media-savvy/whore New York Democrats/Clinton campaign found it and ran with the ball. They did the same when NY GOP chairman Stephen Minarik compared Democrats to convicted terrorism lawyer Lynne Stewart, and Minarik fumbled badly – Gov. Pataki distanced himself from that comment.

Actually, as I write this, McClellan is dissembling on the quote and claiming that Democrats have aligned themselves with MoveOn.org and Michael Moore. Which segues nicely …

2.) Democrats are not hurting their image. Republicans have been saying what Rove said for three years, in the media and in election campaigns. You’re familiar with the obvious examples (“sensitive war,” etc), but here’s one of my favorites.

At the end of the 2004 campaign, with Kerry ahead in the Pennsylvania polls, Democrat Lois Murphy was running in a dead heat against incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach. A week before the campaign, Gerlach ran an ad on the premise that MoveOn.org had endorsed Murphy. Here’s one media account.

In one television ad sponsored by the Gerlach campaign, on screen text reads, “HOW DESPERATE IS LOIS MURPHY.” Following a screening of a Murphy photo, the same visual reads, “OPPOSED Taliban Retaliation after 9/11.”

Murphy said that the next portion of the commercial goes “really beyond the pale.” A camera then pans over a map of Afghanistan, with text which flashes across the screen that reads and implies that Murphy, “sanctioned rape” and then “public executions.”

“Of course, I knew that there would be unpleasant and maybe unfair attacks, but even so, I never imagined my opponent would go this far,” said Murphy. “The charges inthe ads are pure fiction. They have no basis in anything I’ve ever said, done or stood for.”

Gerlach Press Secretary John Gentzel said during a Thursday interview, that the ads are in reaction to MoveOn.org, a national organization, which made contributions to the Murphy campaign.

“We think the ads are accurate,” said Gentzel. “We have all the documentation to back them up. We think it is extremely fair for us to tell the voters what groups and organizations Lois Murphy is affiliated with.”

The ad was really something – one friend connected with the campaign called it the “six degrees of rape” commercial. And all Murphy did was accept an endorsement from MoveOn and endorsements from MoveOn donors. The point: If Democrats voted for every military bill and pro-war resolution in the next two years, Republicans would still be on the radio and in TV ads comparing them to MoveOn, Michael Moore, and by extension, terrorists. In the past, they’ve responsed to such attacks by – no offense to Ms. Murphy – whining like little girls. I don’t see how actively attacking and demanding resignations for these attacks is a worse strategy.

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