It should be clear to all but the most steadfast of reality deniers that the strategy of the Republican Party for the presidential election next year is to cause another recession and hope the voters blame President Obama.
If the economic outlook is even more dismal and they can pin that on the president, the Republican candidate will probably win. If the economy is improving, he or she will not.
Political wars are not won with a single point of attack, however, and there are other elements in the GOPs strategy. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by the man George W. Bush called turd blossom lays them out. That term is Texan for a flower that grows from a pile of cow dung and was the nickname given Karl Rove, Bushs chief political strategist.
In his article, Rove predicted Obama will likely lose in 2012 and offered four reasons for that conclusion — the very weak economy, the dissatisfaction of key groups of voters, Obamas unpopular policies and his bad strategic decisions.
Rove explained in detail how a bad economy was good for the Republican candidate. Corporate CEOs, who would far prefer the welfare for the wealthy that is the basis of Republican economic policies, are doing their part to help that happen. Their companies are sitting on record amounts of cash and are keeping it idle instead of hiring more workers or investing in new plants and equipment.
With regard to unpopular policies and bad decisions, the strategy is to portray everything Obama has done as lacking any popular support and erroneous. A favorite tactic, which Rove employs, is to cite public opinion polls showing how negative the public is on health care reform.
Really? The American people must be desperate to once again be held hostage by insurance companies and to play health care roulette where a serious illness means financial ruin. When asked about specific elements of health care reform, however, public opinion is overwhelmingly positive, so the results of the poll depend on how the question is asked.
The final point — the dissatisfaction of key groups of voters — is also a key element in the game plan. Rove makes mention of two specific groups, Jews and African Americans, and points out the importance of the former in Florida and the latter in North Carolina.
So how do the Republicans make inroads in two groups that voted 78 percent and 97 percent respectively in 2008 for Obama? No problem. In the first case, they use their sock-puppet pundits in the media to argue he is against Israel. After Obamas recent speech on the Middle East, Charles Krauthammer, asserted in his column that Obamas position on the peace process was motivated by an antipathy toward Israel. Someone might point out to Krauthammer that a charge of anti-Semitism, that is as thinly disguised as it is baseless, is a scurrilous slur, not an argument.
In the case of African Americans, it would be hard even for Rove to argue that Obama is a racist. So another tactic is employed. Republican state legislatures around the country are as busy passing voter identification laws as they are dismantling the rights of labor unions. Democratic legislators are trying to block such measures.
Do Republicans feel passionately about voter fraud while Democrats dont care? No, but the fact that cases of voter fraud are harder to find than Rockefeller Republicans these days explains why there is such a partisan divide on the issue. The real purpose of such laws is to discourage poor and/or black voters from going to the polls and voting for Democrats.
Rove even provided his calculation for the amount of vote suppression required. He pointedly wrote that if the share of the African American turnout drops just one point in North Carolina, Mr. Obamas 2008 winning margin there is wiped out two and a half times over.
Of course, Rove and company would never acknowledge having a deliberate strategy of discouraging targeted groups from voting or of lying about public opinion and the presidents record. But for the man who can make a pile of excrement look like a flower, no spinning of an issue is too shameless and no tactic beyond the pale.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, is a professor of international affairs at Penn State's School of International Affairs.
McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.