It’s finally over. Months, and in some cases years of campaigning for control of the White House, came to an end Tuesday as voters, even despite successful attempts at voter suppression by Republican governors and legislators, chose to give Barack Obama four more years to dig us out of the hole that the previous administration had placed us in.
There has been a small amount of gloating and taunting, some of it richly deserved. And on the losing side, a laughable amount of despair and hysterical panic and doomsaying, but at least it’s over. Now we can study the aftermath and assess the damage.
It’s time for the Monday Morning Quarterbacking to begin.
In this week’s PopCulteer, I am going to focus on the man whom I believe may be mistakenly seen as the tragic figure of this election, the King Lear of lies and propaganda, Fox News pundit and former campaign guru Karl Rove.Mitt Romney may have lost his bid for the White House, but he still has hundreds of millions of dollars and a mansion with separate elevators for his cars, his servants and his dancing horses to console him. Rove, on the other hand, seems to have lost everything.
Rove, the Illsbury Doughboy with his Crossroads GPS Super Pac, raised and spent over one billion dollars to support Mitt Romney and a slate of right-wing extremist senatorial and congressional candidates, and for the most part, the campaigns he supported failed miserably.
Karly-boy, a disciple of the late Lee Atwater, and possibly Satan, is being seen as a man who has lost his touch. People are wondering how this master of Nietzsche’s “Big Lie” theory, a man whose skills at spreading propaganda have been compared to that of Hitler’s PR man Joseph Goebbels, seems suddenly lost at sea. It was as if someone busted out the Blue Kryptonite and erased his superpowers. His meltdown on Fox News, where he refused to believe that the election could possibly have been called as early as it was, is both sad and hilarious. Never has a human being both looked and sounded so much like Porky Pig.
But it hit me when viewing that clip for the twentieth time today that it might have been an act.
A lot of people think that it’s over the top to compare anyone in politics today to a member of the Third Reich, and in retrospect, I think maybe the comparison to Goebbels could be wrong. Also, the perception of Karl Rove as a gigantic, whining loser who now looks like South Park’s Eric Cartman all grown up, might also be wrong. Karl Rove might just be the smartest man in the room.
He’s not trying to be Joseph Goebbels. The Karl Rove that we have seen in action during this political campaign is equal parts Malcolm McLaren and Max Bialystock.
McLaren of course, was the mastermind behind the Sex Pistols and other musical acts in the heyday of punk. He was famous for stressing form over content. It was all about the packaging. While the Sex Pistols did manage to create one all-time classic album, they are remembered today as the cartoonish, loutish, dim-witted, crude thugs who ran wild across the country, disappointing crowds and, in the case of Sid Vicious, possessing little or no talent. Bear with me as I stretch a bit for this analogy. Imagine if the Sex Pistols were entirely made up of Sid Viciouses. Now imagine that instead of playing rock and roll, they all were far right-wing, poorly-educated aspiring politicians.
Tell me that doesn’t sound like the Tea Party.
However, foisting a bunch of ignorant, talentless, ideologically abhorrent automatons on the country is not the part of Rove’s plan that is genius. The genius, and this is where the comparisons to Malcolm McLaren become apparent, is that, just maybe, Rove managed to successfully exploit this collection of political hooligans and keep all the money for himself.
And this is where the comparison to Max Bialystock comes in.
Max Bialystock is the character portrayed by Zero Mostel in Mel Brooks’ classic movie, “The Producers” (the same character brought to life by Nathan Lane in the musical adaptations of “The Producers”.) His great scheme as a Broadway producer was that he came to the realization that a play that flopped could bring him much more money than one which was successful.
You see, a successful Broadway play eventually has to pay back money and dividends to its investors. But a flop…a flop is written off as a loss by everyone, no matter how much money is raised to finance it. Nobody gets paid back.
In “The Producers,” Bialystock sets out to create the most repugnant musical production in the history of Broadway, “Springtime For Hitler.” The plan is that it would be so horrible and offensive that it would close after one night and Bialystock, who had raised far more money for the production than he could have possibly spent, would write off the play as a loss and keep all the excess money for himself.
You have to wonder if Karl Rove saw the movie and had a lightbulb go off over his head. As a master fundraiser, Rove, simply on his track record alone, could easily raise hundreds of millions of dollars from the usual right-wing suspects: the Koch Brothers, Richard Scafe, Richard Adelson, etc.
But if he supported candidates that couldn’t possibly get elected, his investors would simply write it off as a loss, knowing that there would be no political payback since their candidates never took office.
I’m certain that Rove was paid quite well by his own super PAC for consulting on each campaign. Judging from his appearance on Fox News, he doesn’t appear to have missed many meals lately. You see, the deep dark secret in the life of a political consultant is that they get paid whether their candidate wins or loses.
Keep in mind that this is pure speculation. But you have to wonder how much of the more than one billion dollars that Karl Rove raised for Crossroads GPS was paid to Rove himself for consulting or to companies in which Rove may have an ownership stake.
Somebody has to own the production houses that cranked out all those commercials. Somebody has to own the media outlets that ran those ads. Hell, somebody even owns the catering companies that provided hors d’oeuvres for all those fundraising events. You have to wonder how much of that one billion dollars that Karl Rove raised and spent wound up in his own pocket.
How much money are we talking about here? Who knows? It’s clear that Rove’s reputation as a political genius should be completely shot by now. But he may have made enough money to easily retire. Plus, he works for the Republicans, who tend to have very short memories when it comes to gigantic political failures.
So Rove may not be the tragic figure in this tale after all. He’s not the hero, but he may not be the villain either. Maybe he just figured out how to be some perverse Robin Hood, who steals from the rich white people and keeps the money for himself. For years, Democrats have hated and villified Rove because it’s clear that, simply by virtue of getting George W. Bush elected President, he has inflicted a great harm upon this nation. But maybe he’s not as evil as we thought. Maybe that was all part of a master plan. He’s like the protagonist in a caper film. Just when you thought he was committed to delivering the country into the hands of evil, he pulls a triple-cross and makes off with a trainload full of gold.
So that’s my big political analogy for the week. I’ve compared Karl Rove to Malcolm McLaren and Max Bialystock.
I have another analogy for Karl Rove, based on his Fox News meltdown on election night. There is one other movie character that Rove reminds me of. Perhaps he’s like Milton in Mike Judge’s “Office Space.” He’s burned down the Republican Party and now he’s going to skip town with all that money, plus his red Swingline stapler.