So with George W. Bush, Rove basically gave us the political version of Married With Children, an ongoing self-parody routine where couch-potato America tuned in week after week to cheer on the nitwit hero as he and his brood took on a world of self-serious snobs and their silly "civilized" conventions (like, say, international law). It was political junk food and American voters ate it up, although the people on the business end of our endless bombings and waterboarding sessions and other atrocities were less stoked about the show.
Still, the reason Married With Children worked is that it was an industry in-joke, a piece of camp. It was actually kind of an inspired rip on the low entertainment standards of American TV audiences, though the humor of that mostly went over the heads of a lot of the people who actually watched the show.
From Rove's point of view, the Bush presidency was the same kind of deal. He seemed to take it for granted that political professionals everywhere understood that all of the lying about WMDs, and the shameless witch-hunting of John Kerry's war record, and the endless McCarthyist dabblings during campaign seasons (remember when, as an official White House adviser, Rove said that liberals wanted to "offer therapy and understanding to our attackers"?) were all just part of the game, just a way to get votes.
The whole Bush presidency, in the minds of Rove and his followers, was a goof on political advisers who were so self-serious that they actually believed themselves to be shackled to the truth, the responsibility of governing, etc. Rove and his crew openly laughed at the idea that they had to be consistent, or make sense, or do the right thing. Remember their naked mocking of the "reality-based community," and the boasting about how "we create our own reality"? Who did we think they were supposed to be, boy scouts? This was Washington! They were about winning, not governing.
What else explained an apparent atheist like Rove, who derided the evangelicals his president courted as "the nuts," being so hot to push hardcore religious policy down America's throat? (As Rove is said to have put it, "Just get me a f*cking faith-based thing!") He obviously didn't take what he was doing seriously, and would later seem shocked that others did.
We first saw this when the Republicans came out in the summer of 2008 and picked as John McCain's running mate an Alaskan Bible-thumper named Sarah Palin, one of the few potential candidates in the Republican Party rolls even dumber than George Bush.
Rove, by then just a media commentator, was apparently mortified that the political "reality-making" machine he'd built was pushing things too far. He immediately went on TV and blasted the choice as a "political pick" and "not a governing decision but a campaign decision."
Though no one said anything about it at the time, the damning subtext of Rove's criticisms of Palin as a purely "political pick" and not a "governing decision" was that he, Rove, should know, because after all he'd built the entire Bush presidency using the same methodology.
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