Without any hint of irony, Karl Rove, still a prominent figure in American media, devotes his latest Wall Street Journal column to complaining about President Obama leaving behind “messes” for his successor to clean up in 2017.
Even at face value, Rove’s missive is hard to take seriously. Economic growth has improved under Obama, but Rove complains the growth has been too slow. Job growth has soared under Obama, but Rove complains it’s not enough. The deficit has shrunk under Obama, but Rove complains about the size of the debt. Medicare’s finances are on far stronger footing thanks to Obama, but Rove complains about “squandered” opportunities at “reforms.”
How, oh how, Rove wonders, will Republicans “clean up the mess Mr. Obama will leave.”
Rove’s column makes no reference – literally, not one – to the fact that his old boss left the biggest mess in modern American history for President Obama to clean up. Jon Chait wonders if the poor GOP strategist is suffering from some kind of “post-traumatic shock” stemming from his failures in the Bush/Cheney White House.
[Rove is] the victim of a severe psychological trauma that has rendered him unable to recollect anything that transpired between January 2001 and 2009, when he masterminded one of the most disastrous presidencies in American history, an ordeal that is the possible source of his trauma. Thus, Rove wanders the Earth in a haze, experiencing hazy flashbacks to a history he cannot recall and expressing his anguish in the form of op-ed columns.
Quite right. The delicious irony of Rove’s complaints – the detail that makes him a truly great performance artist, blind to his own genius – is that each of his complaints focus on an area of economic policy that George W. Bush made considerably worse (and Obama has made better).
In other words, the strategist’s entire column, when considered in context, is one of the more amusing possible rebukes of the Obama presidency: Karl Rove isn’t satisfied with the speed with which Obama has improved upon Bush’s failures.
But Chait’s response, though compelling, overlooks a key detail: Rove’s breathtaking failures of self-awareness are part of a chronic condition that’s become quite alarming.
* Rove, for example, whose boss left his successor with violence in the Middle East, has said Obama might leave his successor with violence in the Middle East.
* Rove has tried to buy elections for Republicans, so he accuses Democrats of trying to buy elections.
* Rove embraced the idea of “permanent campaign,” so he accuses the Obama White House of embracing a “permanent campaign.”
* Rove relied on pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted political events, so he accuses the president of relying on “pre-packaged, organized, controlled, scripted” political events.
* Rove snubbed news outlets that he considered partisan, so he blasts Obama for snubbing news outlets that he considers partisan.
* Rove had a habit of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons, so he accuses Democrats of burying bad news by releasing it late on Friday afternoons.
* Rove complains about Obama attending political fundraisers in the midst of foreign crises, despite the fact that George W. Bush, at Rove’s behest, attended political fundraisers in the midst of foreign crises.
Whether Rove genuinely has no memory of the Bush/Cheney era or he’s just the nation’s most shameless political troll is the subject of a debate that will likely never end.