Man without a conscience

Josh Marshall today points us to a superb article by Joshua Green in the Atlantic Monthly (subscription only) on how Karl Rove operates.

It’s a real shocker, even if you think you already know all about this sordid topic. I mean, it’s fine to be aggressive and fight to win. But there are traditional limits, even in US politics, and Rove has time and again proudly demonstrated a gleeful willingness to cross those limits and do the unthinkable.

In what Marshall describes as “one of the most lizardly passages in the article,” Green describes a Rove-orchestrated whisper campaign against Mark Kennedy, a sitting Alabama state Supreme Court Justice.

When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children. In the early 1980s he had helped to start the Children’s Trust Fund of Alabama, and he later established the Corporate Foundation for Children, a private, nonprofit organization. At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove’s signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception.

Some of Kennedy’s campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children. “We were trying to counter the positives from that ad,” a former Rove staffer told me, explaining that some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile. “It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to disseminate whisper-campaign information,” the staffer went on. “That was a major device we used for the transmission of this stuff. The students at the law school are from all over the state, and that’s one of the ways that Karl got the information out—he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns and it would get out.” This would create the impression that the lie was in fact common knowledge across the state. “What Rove does,” says Joe Perkins, “is try to make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship. Mark is not your typical Alabama macho, beer-drinkin’, tobacco-chewin’, pickup-drivin’ kind of guy. He is a small, well-groomed, well-educated family man, and what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take.”

Sound familiar — hitting the opponent where he appears to be most strong? And blithely destroying the man’s life and reputation in the process? Tell me with a straight face that Rove wasn’t behind the Smear Boat Veterans.

UPDATE: Although it’s not on the Web, you can read it as a PDF here. If you think Rove is incapable of setting up and manipulating the entire CBS forgery scandal, you may think differently after reading it.

The Discussion: 19 Comments

That story is bullshit. I KNOW Alabama, the Alabama judicial election system and specifically what Justice Kennedy’s motivations and realities were.

Alabama’s out of control judicial system, which had made Alabama the most business hostile and plaintiff friendly in the country was under-attack from pro-business interest groups.

In addition, the 10 Commandments in the courthouse fiasco had riled up conservative Christian voters.

Kennedy was pro-plaintiff and anti-10 Commandments. He faced a well financed opponant and almost certainly could not have won re-election.

I know many, perhaps most, of the important players in Alabama judicial politics, and I don’t know one of them whose ever mentioned or even heard of this story.

Karl Rove brought down a judicial candidate by spreading a rumor among the few hundred students at Alabama Law School. It doesn’t pass the laugh test.

I’ve been a Law Student and I’ve leactured at the University of Alkabama, and take my word on this, UofA Law Students can’t even turn campus government elections, much less those for the State Supreme Court.

Thanks for the chuckle.

September 27, 2004 @ 10:55 pm | Comment

Aw, c’mon, Conrad. It makes such a great conspiracy theory!

September 28, 2004 @ 1:33 am | Comment

Just because the system was a mess anyway doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a conspiracy to change it.

I’d bet that people would be far less inclinded to question sombody setting up to practice law than somebody trying to become a vetranarian or a business man. Whether or not it’s true, choosing soon to be lawyers as your viral messangers sounds plausible. Conrad, you’ve underestimated the pawer of gossip, and of choosing the right viral messanger to do it.

A couple of hundred law guys could easly plant this payload into the wider social psyche. Whether or not it could unseat somebody or put somebody into power is another issue, but they could certainly turn a swing voter.

September 28, 2004 @ 2:04 am | Comment

And I’m telling you that this is my home, I personally know the precise race we’re talking about as well as knowing very well people involved on both sides of it. What moved Kennedy not to seek re-election was — (A) a well funded pro-business opponant PLUS (B) the wrath of the Christian right over the 10 Commandments mess = (C) the certainty that he would lose.

Law student pedophile rumors my great aunt’s ass . . . you people are becoming risable.

Still, it’s nice to see that not having a clue what you’re talking about doesn’t prevent you from correcting someone with specific personal knowledge. That’s what I’ve always loved about the Left — not knowing shit is no impedement at all. Indeed, it’s probably a pre-requisite.

September 28, 2004 @ 5:18 am | Comment

Conrad, it’s good to know that we all have a brilliant source who always knows that these things are bullshit. Sorry, but Rove’s conspiracies are a matter of fact, not conjecture or fanatasy. It’s how the man has operated historically and if you’d done your homework you’d know it. Even ultra-liberal Andrew Sullivan has endorsed this article and said he believes it. I’m sorry, I love you (in a manly way, of course), but you have a way of bashing things in outspoken language and turning your back on history. If you’d followed what bush did to McCain in 2000 and to Ann Richards in 1994 and then to Kerry with the SBVFT and in countless other instances, you would know this is his modus operandi, period. Maybe you don’t know about the famous bug he planted in his own office on the afternoon of a gubernatorial debate, so that the news that night was hardly about the debate at all but about how his candidate’s opponent planted the bug. Rove held a press conference that afternoon and played the media like a fiddle. It’s all a matter of fact, and even his own former staffers acknowledge it. But that doesn’t seem to matter, because you have some special knwledge the rest of us mere mortals aren’t privy to. Funny, how this knowledge always allows your guy to come off clean.

September 28, 2004 @ 8:51 pm | Comment

I have no idea if this story is true or not, I’m only talking about the mechanics of a conspiracy.

If you want to spread a viral message you need a plausible story and a solid messanger. Pick something scandelous yet believable and pick a distribution chanel that has some credibility but is not going to be inhibited by politics into keeping silient.

Conrad, you might be right, but I’ve had enough experience to know that you don’t trust a sinlge source when he or she says that they have local knowledge or that they can prove or disprove something but offer nothing but opinion.

Bring something solid to the table.

September 29, 2004 @ 2:19 am | Comment

I enjoyed Conrad’s comments. I hope that he did not pass out his written notes when he lectured at the University of Alabama. Clearly he cannot spell. His strident attack and mistatement of fact is typical of those who make decisions based on anger and fear rather than truth. Conrad is a perfect vicim of people like Karl Rove. Ill tempered, opinionated uninformed and one who fashions the truth to serve his own needs.

Kennedy beat Rove’s candidate in 1994. Whatever his reason not to run is irrelevant to the fact that no person, no matter what his politics may be, should be subjected to lies and innuendo of this type. Harold See was a professor at the University of Alabama Law School in 1994, a perfect place to oversee Karl Rove’s sleazy politics which he embraced.

Think about See for a minute who was elected in 1996 and served alongside Kennedy, “the pedophile” until Kennedy retired. See is pro business, republican, a christian and even a deacon in his church, a volunteer fireman, a member of the highest court of his state, a righteous man, a family man and a man who hired Karl Rove to do whatever it took to get him elected including vicious attacks on a man whose only crime was to think he could make a difference in the lives of abused children.

Conrad, if you are married and have children, maybe if you were in Kennedy’s shoes and had to look at the hurt in your children’s eyes when they heard someone call you a pedophile, perhaps that would make your anger and piety thaw just a little bit.

Dont blame Karl Rove. It is just like a drug dealer. As long as there are junkies that want to buy drugs, there will be dealers. As long as there are candidates like Harold See ( a judge for God’s sake) whose blind ambition drives them into the gutter then the Karl Roves will always have work.

On a final note, it was not Kennedy who attacked the 10 Commandments and Justice Moore. Kennedy had retired before Moore came on the scene. It was Harold See who was the culprit. He ran for Chief Justice in 2000, again managed by Rove’s crowd, against Moore and attacked him for being soft on crime and not very smart even lied about Moore’s record as a trial court judge. In fact the attacks were so bad that See was removed from office by a judicial panel. He had to sue the State in Federal Court to get his job back. He succeeded, and arrived back to the Supreme Court just in time to lead the charge to have Moore kicked out of office and his 10 commandments drug out of the supreme court building. Moore lost the job that the people of Alabama had elected him to while See still sits on the court and draws a 150000 plus salary.

Would you want to work in a place like that? Maybe Kennedy was smarter than you think.

September 29, 2004 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

Alambamian, I have just two words to say to you: Thank You.

September 29, 2004 @ 8:59 pm | Comment

After reading this article on Rove in the AM, and the article on Bob Shrum in the NYer (the man behind Kerry), I know who I would want in my corner if I ran for office.

The fact is that no one likes a loser, and Rove doesn’t lose. He does all he needs to to win, and isn’t that the American way?

Oh, he’ll probably have just an ironic end as Lee Atwater.

September 29, 2004 @ 10:33 pm | Comment


I saw your post above, clicked down to read Alabamian’s comment, and now I have a question for you — have you lost your fucking mind?!?

Do you have any idea who this “Alabamian” is supporting?

He condemns Harold See for having Roy Moore impeached from office. Roy Moore is the fundimentalist Christian lunatic who had a one ton monument inscribed with the 10 Commandments installed in the State Supreme Court building and refused to remove it despite Federal Court orders to do so.

Moore was ultimately impreached from office for this (violating his oath to uphold the Constitution) and Harold See helped lead the charge to have Moore removed. See deserves praise, not condemnation, for making sure that Moore is gone.

But there are even better reasons to loath Alabamian’s hero, Roy Moore. Here’s one that I know you’ll especially like:

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore insisted last week he was only following established judicial precedent when he issued an official opinion calling homosexuality an “inherent evil” that makes gays “presumptively unfit” to raise children.

“I was quoting common law. This is a common law state,” Moore said Feb. 20, according to the Associated Press. “I was just going by the law.”

“Alabamian” condemns Harold See for having Roy Moore impeached from office and you praise “Alabamina” as humane without even realizing that Roy Moore is an ignorant bigotted buffon.

Thanks Richard for proving my point — because you don’t have a fucking clue about the subject you’re talking about — Alabama judicial politics — your knee jerk reaction to the name “Karl Rove” just led you to defend of a homophobe.

Do you feel like an ass now?

September 29, 2004 @ 11:46 pm | Comment

Can someone identify Alabamian? Not that I don’t trust you Conrad, but my mama always told me to check the sources. Unfortunately, there is a lot of crap passed around the blogs. The only way I know to have any sense of trust in what is being written, is to know who is saying what, otherwise you might just as well blow it all off.

Jeremey you make an “astute” observation that “no one likes a loser.” Hardly true as it is a cliche. But I think I can say with certainty that not many people like liars, bullies, hired guns and people who are unscrupulous.

September 30, 2004 @ 3:25 am | Comment

Conrad – a man with convictions, whether you agree with those convictions or not (Judge Moore) is not a lunatic. Are you a left-wing radical idiot? What’s wrong with the Ten Commandments? Have you ever read them? Yes, he did disobey a court order and lost his job; Why? Convictions.

September 30, 2004 @ 7:01 am | Comment

As Dan Akroyd used to say on SNL: Conrad, you ignorant slut! Look at what you did. You seized on the one slim point where you perceived Alabamian to be vulnerable (Roy Moore) and “forgot” the real issue here, which is Karl Rove and the misery he leaves in his wake.

With you, Hong Kong has its own Karen Hughes. When you don’t like the facts, you have the perfect exit plan: ignore them and change the subject! It’s really quite artful. And you don’t just change the subject, you hammer on your new-found topic obsessively, scornfully, and you declare victory for yourself and proclaim everyone else to be a moron. This may work in some circles. It definitely works with the sycophantic automatons who hang out over at Gweilo Diaries, those groupies who exist to get titillated by your latest outbursts, and then all chime in to declare your wisdom. “You go, boy!”

Luckily, over here that won’t work. Here we have the honesty and the integrity to stick to the issues, to argue with logic, not shrieks and catcalls, and to step back and try to determine what’s actually going on. I write for those who want to engage in an inquiry, not in a mindless clusterfuck. You write for a different audience — for the dull, for the weak, for the sick, for the blasee, for the herd animal, for idiots — for Republicans.

Now, if you’re man enough, how about addressing Alabamian’s points about Karl Rove? (Roy Moore is another conversation.) No? Nothing to say? Funny, I’m not surprised.

Andrea, Conrad and I are good friends. This is all part of his therapy. Deprogramming a member of a dangerous and bloodthirsty cult is a long, slow process. Conrad has, in effect, been raised by a pack of wild hyenas, and getting him back to normal won’t happen overnight. But each of us can help him in our own way. Republicanism, while not always fatal, is an aggressive and resistant disease, but I’ve dedicated my life to fighting it. While in Conrad’s case it’s metastasized and spread deep into his cerebral tissue, there’s hope yet. Let’s not give up on him. The next step is a full-blown exorcism, performed by Jimmy Carter and James Carville. Hope is on the way!!

September 30, 2004 @ 8:14 am | Comment


Conrad, look back at your first posting on the Green story. You stated then that one reason that Kennedy did not choose to run for reelection was that he would have invoked the wrath of the “Christian Right over the 10 Commandments mess”. That does not sound like Kennedy was a fan or supporter of Roy Moore and since you are knowledgable about Alabama I guess we can all surmise that you are the expert.

If you will read what I said, you will find that I did not say that I supported Roy Moore. And as far as Kennedy, as I said before. he was not on the Supreme Court when the Roy Moore issues surfaced. Kennedy retired in late 1998 or early 1999. Moore ran for office in 2000.

It is apparent that what I said was that Harold See used the same smear tactics against Roy Moore. They were not about the 10 Commandments but about his record as a trial court judge. They were lies. See got kicked off the Court and was reinstated by a federal judge. When he got back on the Court he then proceeded to lead the charge to have Roy Moore removed.

I take no issue with what the Supreme Court did in its removal of Roy Moore and I do not ascribe to his beliefs at all. My point and I thought the point of my comments related to the irony of the fact that Karl Rove ran See’s campaign aqainst Moore. See’s statements were lies. (See was on the Supreme Court at the time he ran. He was elected in 1996. He was running as a sitting Associate Justice for Chief Justice). He was removed from office by a judicial panel for his misconduct. He sued in federal cout and a federal judge put him back on the bench. He got back in time to participate in the removal of Moore, the very man that he had been beaten by, although his conduct during the campaign had been determined to be a violation of the judicial code of ethics. As he cast his vote I am sure that as a Christian he smiled as he remembered the Bible verse, “revenge is mine sayeth the Lord.”

Conrad. let’s stick to the issue at hand. I have no idea why you are such an angry man. Your bad temperament, the fact that you denigrate people who dont agree with you makes you just the kind of person that the Karl Roves of the world are looking for, potential voters that are motivated by fear hate and anger rather than people that take the time to listen understand and know the facts.

Conrad, if you are interested in the truth I am glad to tell you that I am supporting John Kerry. I fear for the future and for the future of my family should John Kerry lose.

I will make a wager with you. When you read this posting you will be so angry that you will see red, boil over, attack me, use as many expletives as you can think of because some people in this world just dont want to listen to to hear what other people think if they think differently from them. You took my comments and twisted them in such a way as to turn them back against me. You do know how Karl Rove works after all. Congratulations

September 30, 2004 @ 4:58 pm | Comment

Conrad is a windbag. His blog is a soft porn site and people go there for cheap thrills, the way they go to Faux News to hear people scream. And if any of you are gullible enough to believe he’s really from Alabama, have I got news for you. Later.

September 30, 2004 @ 5:08 pm | Comment

When things get personal, people loose their objectivity. From the first post this thread lost its objectivity.

When you get past the name calling what we have here is a confrontation between left and right.

Gentlemen, put your gloves back on and stick to records and not opinions.

October 1, 2004 @ 9:19 pm | Comment

ACB, I was being a bit funny with Conrad.

October 1, 2004 @ 9:20 pm | Comment

And it’s not really a maaterr of left vs. right, but fact vs. fiction. Rove’s dirty tricks are a matter of fact. Period.

October 1, 2004 @ 9:21 pm | Comment

Uh, folks,

I’m joining this thread a bit late, but I would like to add a thought or two.

Conrad is indeed from the deep south as am I (Mississippi, although I haven’t lived there in almost thirty years); he indeed has firsthand experience in legal matters in the territory under question; he is also a friend of mine, even though we don’t agree much on current political matters; he is NOT a redneck, nor am I.

Having said all that, Conrad, in your anger at us liberals you did miss the point that “Alabamaian” was making. And surely you know Karl Rove’s tactics are a matter of record. While I know nothing of this particular case, it passes the plausibility test with flying colors. I believe you have by now reread “Alabamaian’s” comments and you understand that you made a mistake. I also believe you are of strong enough character to bow out of this gracefully.

Look, in a month, all of us are going to be either very happy or very unhappy, but it will be over and you and Richard and I and others will continue conversing with one another because that’s what we do even when we disagree.

By the way, did you see what in the hell Georgia did to LSU on Saturday? Yikes!


October 3, 2004 @ 3:24 am | Comment

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