Karl Rove Playbook in Use -- Against McCain

Washington Matters

Karl Rove Playbook in Use -- Against McCain

Karl Rove, the architect of President Bush's election wins and the brains behind the 2004 attacks on John Kerry's military record, must be groaning today. His signature tactic of attacking an opponent's perceived strength and turning it into a weakness or at least into a question mark is being used by the Democrats. Notice Ex-Gen. Wesley Clark calling John McCain "untested and untried" on national security. That's a tactic taken directly out of Rove's campaign playbook.

Here's another quote from Clark, a retired four-star general who spoke to the Huffington Post: "He's never had leadership in a crisis or in anything larger than his own element on an aircraft carrier or [in managing] his own congressional staff."

Clark, a presidential candidate in 2004, a Clinton backer in 2008 and a possible running mate for Obama, knows the Democrats need to put some chinks in McCain's armor on national security and foreign policy. Obama's experience in foreign policy and military matters is truly thin. He says judgment is what matters more than experience. He has to. He has so little of the latter.

While Clark and the Obama camp may repeat this Rove-inspired mantra of McCain's inexperience in national security, it shouldn't be taken seriously. In addition to his Navy service and experience in Vietnam (granted, being a POW does not make you a national security expert) and his subsequent tenure as the Navy's liaison to the Senate, McCain has decades of service on the Armed Services Committee developing military and security policy and is a point man on national security policy in the Senate. He's also credited with being the chief author and advocate of the surge in Iraq, and his criticism of the Bush defense team led to many real changes both in management and policy. McCain has also participated probably in a hundred or more official foreign policy trips.


It may be that Obama and his surrogates will take McCain on full force on national security in the summer and fall. Somehow I doubt such sharp attacks will have the same effect as Rove's politically masterful filleting of Kerry over his military record from 30 years ago.