Rove’s disciple

The Clinton campaign has mastered the Rovian tactic of making personal attacks on your opponent and then accusing him of running a negative campaign.

The Clinton campaign, both the candidate and the surrogates, have been going after Barack Obama hard and personally. He’s “naive” and “irresponsible,” too inexperienced to trust as Commander in Chief. Now Obama says that, largely through no fault of her own, Clinton is not the best person to bring the country back together.

The Clinton campaign’s reaction: accusing Obama of “attack politics.” The lie, and the projection, are transparent. But that’s not to say that those tactics won’t work. After all, they elected George W. Bush, didn’t they?

It’s not easy to figure out which candidate this year could be the legitimate heir of FDR. But it’s not hard to figure out which campaign carries the DNA of Karl Rove.

Update In response to several thoughtful emails: My criticism of the Clinton campaign was not for attacking Obama; there’s nothing especially Rovian about that, though I wish they wouldn’t do it. The Rovian touch is using a false accusation about “attack politics” as part of the attack, like a schoolyard bully who starts a fight and then runs to the teacher, yelling “He hit me!”

On cue, Clinton’s Rovian surrogate attacks Obama for using … Rovian tactics. The sheer shamlessness would be funny if it weren’t faintly disgusting.

Just for the record, here’s what Obama actually said:

“I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can,” Obama said. “I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the ’90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be running.”

Yep. That’s exactly like making fun of Max Cleland’s war wounds or spreading rumors about John McCain having an interracial extramarital affair using a photo of his adopted South Asian child. If Karl Rove were really writing Obama’s talking points, they’d be about cattle futures.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: