August 16, 2007

Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled

Dana Frankfort, Thinker, 2006

* How Karl Rove lost a generation of Republicans. excerpt:

"There is an old joke that campaign veterans toss around war rooms, bars and BS sessions. We say there are people who have worked in campaigns who say that they have lost some – and we call those folks operatives, managers, strategists, consultants; and then there are people who work in campaigns and say that they have never lost, and we call them liars.

"The joke reflects an obsession with winning as the real benchmark of success in politics. By that measure, Karl Rove’s career has to be deemed a success. He built the Republican party of Texas into one of the most powerful state parties in America.

"Nationally he has pulled off some of the most unexpected and impressive victories of modern political history. (I will not be debating the 2000 election for the purposes of this article, but I also will not be crediting him with it, so let us just move on to the next cycle.)

"Mr Rove picked up seats in what was an almost historically impossible context in 2002. Then in 2004, he engineered one of the most remarkable feats in American politics. He got Americans to re-elect a president who they really did not want to re-elect. Even the Republican defeat in 2006 was predictable and well within the range of historical norms so, by this sport’s standard of winning and losing, there is still no black mark on Rove’s record.

"If we concluded our analysis in 2007 and confined our judgment merely to Mr Rove’s immediate electoral record, we would have no choice but to judge him a spectacular success. There is no doubt that Mr Rove won elections. He has perhaps one of the most remarkable win-percentages in modern American politics.

"If only things were so neat and simple. The evidence is now pretty conclusive that Mr Rove may have lost more than just an election in 2006. He has lost an entire generation for the Republican party."
"Mr Rove’s famous electoral strategy – focusing on the Republican base first – is also largely responsible for a shift in international public opinion against the US. It would not be fair to blame Mr Rove for the Iraq war. But it is clearly fair to blame his strategy for the Terry Schiavo fiasco and the Republicans’ adherence to the policies and doctrines of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson. The world and now most of the US are contemptuous of the theocratic underpinnings of the policy Mr Rove ushered into government.

"There is also a distinction to be made between Karl Rove the political strategist and Karl Rove the government official. Mr Rove was not just an operative sitting at the Republican National Committee and scheming. He had a West Wing office. This distinguishes him from other political operatives, whose roles were outside the White House doing scheduling, advance work and presentation. They were not firing and hiring or shaping national security policy.

"Mr Rove was as powerful a government figure as he was a campaign figure. The past six and a half years of Mr Rove’s career were spent as a very, very senior and extraordinarily influential Bush administration official.

"He has been assistant to the president, senior advisor and deputy chief of staff. Mr Rove was the architect of social security reform, immigration, the hiring and firing of justice department officials and the placement of literally thousands of ideologically driven buffoons throughout the US government. As deputy chief of staff he was also responsible for handling the White House post-Katrina reconstruction efforts. On these actions, history has already rendered its judgment on Mr Rove. And, as we say in Louisiana, 'it ain’t pretty.'

"When it comes to judging Mr Rove’s political career, I am reminded of Chinese premier Zhou Enlai’s meeting with Henry Kissinger in the 1970s, when Mr Kissinger asked, 'What do you think of the French Revolution?' Zhou replied: 'It’s too soon to tell.'

"If the trends hold, the one thing that we can be sure of is that Mr Rove’s political grave will receive no lack of irrigation from future Republicans."

* From a 1996 Index Magazine interview of Will Oldham. excerpt:

BRUCE: What's your song-writing process like?

WILL: It's different for each song or each album. Usually the songs don't begin to be put together unless there's a goal in mind, like a single or EP or a record - and by the time they become song structures, that unit is always there as well.

BRUCE: Music first or lyrics first?

WILL: Well it depends. Most of the time - all the time - is spent on music, words, sometimes separate, sometimes together. When there is a recording goal in mind, it'll start to get shape.

BRUCE: By the time you go into the studio do you have a rough or a pretty fixed idea in your head of how you want to get it down?

WILL: Well, we go into the studio with lyrics, chords, and a basic melody, but have - usually - no concept what it's gonna sound like, but - usually - the lyrics, words and basic melody don't change.

BRUCE: Do you write things down - pencil and paper - or is it all in your head?
WILL: It depends on the stage that the song is at. Right now I'm working on songs that have been typed out for, like, could be a month or a month and a half, and when the typed-out thing becomes obsolete because there's so many revisions on it then I'll re-type it.

BRUCE: And do you save them?

WILL: Usually. To save paper I'll type on the other side.
BRUCE: In terms of your own music and Palace Records, do you like putting out something that is hard to talk about?

WILL: Yeah. There is obviously an obscure quality to a lot of music, including most Palace music, but I think that Palace does work more on the level of, like, Lynyrd Skynyrd music or Bon Jovi music or Madonna music than say on what my impression is of Jon Spencer music or Talking Heads music - music that seems like it cries out to be talked about. The way some of the people have talked about me is not how music really should be talked about and I don't think Palace has been that successfully talked about. Palace is music made for pleasure. It's just that the kinds of pleasure are different from a lot of mainstream music pleasure. I think it hits the hearts of people who just aren't moved by Bon Jovi or Lynyrd Skynyrd - but hits in a way like that music.

BRUCE: Two different friends of mine listening to Arise Therefore said, "It's so good to listen to in the morning." That was their praise.

WILL: When the first record came out the highest praises that I heard came on two separate occasions: people came up and talked to me, two couples, in different cities, and said how important it was, how much of a good time they had together listening to it, and that was exactly what the record was supposed to be. It's a record for being with someone else.

* "Piano tuners around the world still fear him" -- Sterling Morrison, on John Cale, 1986


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