Translation from Rove-speak to Plain English

[inspired by John Gruber and Mark Pilgrim.]

Karl Rove, ex-Senior Advisor to Bush, in today’s Newsweek giving Obama advice.

Four months ago, you took the political world by storm in Iowa. The media were agog. They called your words “gorgeous,” your victory “a message to the world.” You “made history” and Americans could “look at ourselves with pride” in “a moment to marvel.”

Four months ago, your candidacy made me realize how I’ve destroyed the Republican Party for a generation.

Times change. The six weeks leading into Pennsylvania were difficult. You excelled at raising money and gaining endorsements, but got weaker as big problems emerged. Before you can fix them, you must understand them. In Pennsylvania, you won only 30 percent among Catholics and 29 percent among white working-class voters. Defections like this elect Republicans.

I’m grasping at straws, and I enjoy confusing a Primary and the General Election.

Even liberal commentators who adore you warn you can’t win with a McGovern coalition of college students and white-wine sippers from the party’s left wing. Saying small-town voters cling to guns, faith and xenophobia because of economic bitterness hurt you; it reinforced the growing sense you don’t share Middle America’s values. So did asking about the price of arugula in Iowa, dismissing the “true” patriotism of people who wear a flag lapel pin, being “friendly” (as your chief strategist, David Axelrod, put it) with a violent, unrepentant ’60s radical and having a close relationship with an angry pastor who expressed anti-American sentiments.

I just love bringing up that Arugula story and reminding you that, yes, a flag pin is all you need to be patriotic.

You argue the son of a single working mom can’t be an elitist. But it’s not where you start in life; it’s where you end up. After a prestigious prep school, Columbia and Harvard, you’ve ended up with the values of Cambridge, San Francisco and Hyde Park. So you’re doing badly in Scranton, Youngstown and Erie, where ordinary Americans live.

At least when Bush attended Ivy League schools, he didn’t become smart or anything.


1. Your stump speech is sounding old and out of touch. You made a mistake by not giving the bored press (and voters) something new last Tuesday when you lost Pennsylvania. Come up with something fresh that’s focused on the general election. Recapture the optimistic tone of your start and discard the weary, prickly and distracted tone you’ve taken on.

Keep changing your message to stay fresh.

2. When you get into trouble, pick one, simple explanation. And stay with it.

The truth is not important. Don’t change the message, even if all evidence points to the contrary.

3. Your lack of achievements undercuts your core themes. It’s powerful when you say America is not “Red States or Blue States but the United States.” The problem is, you don’t have a long Senate record of working across party lines. So build one.

I am making things up and ignoring your significant bi-partisan achievements because I’d like you to go bury yourself in Senate work so people forget about you.

In the coming months, say that you’ll appoint Republicans to your cabinet and get a couple to say they’d serve.

I need a job cause McCain ain’t gonna win.

Highlight initiatives Republicans can agree on. Most importantly, push for a bipartisan issue now before Congress.

Bipartisan rocks when the President is a Democrat.

4. You speak of the “fierce urgency of now” that calls leaders to confront important challenges. Sounds good, but people are asking, what urgent issues have drawn your enormous talents? It’s counterintuitive, but spend less time campaigning and more time working the Senate. Pick a big issue and fight hard for it. Win or lose, you’ll give your argument substance.

Really, please, just go bury yourself in Senate work. For goodness sake, stay off the TV!

5. Stop the attacks. They undermine your claim to a post-partisan new politics. You soared when you seemed above politics, lost altitude when you did what you criticize. Attacks are momentarily satisfying but ultimately corrode your appeal.

I am Jack’s amused sense of irony.

6. To answer growing questions about your inexperience, people need to know, in concrete and credible ways, what they can expect from you as president. That’s missing now. And don’t think those position papers written by academics and posted on the Web do the job. They have a check-the-box quality to them.

You wrote a whole paper! Elitist!

Americans want to see your passion and commitment to things they care about, in ways that give them confidence you’re up to the job. They can smell when something is poll-tested and focus-grouped, not from the heart.

I am confusing you with Senator Clinton.

The only problem is, the Bush administration, building on the good work of the Clinton administration,

I really hope Hillary wins the nomination.

You’ll have to do both your homework and occasionally something that’s difficult for you (and most other politicians): admit you don’t know.

Oh god, my hypocrisy is too much even for me.

You have talent, intelligence and tapped into something powerful early in your campaign. But running for president is unlike anything you’ve ever done. You’re making mistakes and making people worry that you’re an elitist. So while you’ll almost certainly win the nomination, Democrats are nervous about the fall. You’ve given them reasons to be.

I am high as a kite.






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