See, that's the natural response of a man whose family was dragged into the epicenter of a political tactic so nasty that it made the antics of Richard Nixon look downright saintly by comparison.
In 2000, the Republican primary looked like it was going to be a close one. Bush took Iowa. McCain took New Hampshire.
And then, they reached South Carolina--- A state that had, by that point, flown the Confederate flag over all state buildings for nearly four decades. The state's stance on race relations had been clear since its inception--- An anti-slavery clause was removed from the Declaration of Independence by a delegate from South Carolina who insisted that his state, North Carolina, and Georgia would fight on behalf of King George if the new government infringed on their right to own and exploit others for economic gain. The state seems to be shameless about racism--- To this day, a statue of Benjamin "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman stands on the grounds of the state capitol, a monument to a long dead governor who boasted of taking part in the Hamburg Massacre and proudly told delegates at a state constitutional convention "We have done our level best [to prevent blacks from voting]...we have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate the last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it."
The idea that a race baiting push poll could gain traction in the state was far from a foreign concept. Richard Hand, a professor at South Carolina's Bob Jones University (Most famous for being one of the last schools in America to break the color barrier, and with a rule against interracial dating that was still in effect at the time) had spread a vicious email rumor that McCain had fathered a child out of wedlock.
The push poll, while there's no evidence indicating that it was coordinated, seemed custom designed to build on Hand's rumor-mongering. Not only was McCain the father of an out of wedlock child, but--- Gasp! She was black! The question was always a variation on "Are you less likely to vote for John McCain because of his out of wedlock black daughter?"
The child in question did exist. But not quite as they said. The McCains had adopted a baby girl out of Bangladesh. Her skin was just dark enough to make "half black, half McCain" plausible. When Cindy McCain found her, the baby's cleft pallate was so severely deformed that she couldn't eat. She was mere weeks from a slow, agonizing starvation death when the McCains adopted her and brought her to the United States for a series of life-saving surgeries. And as any proud father running for the presidency would, he took this beautiful little girl with him when he made campaign stops across the country. Including South Carolina.
Karl Rove was put on the hot seat yesterday while making an appearance at Troy University in Alabama. And as usual, he attempted to tar the people that questioned him.
"Do you think people of South Carolina find it attractive to hear that kind of charge made against John McCain," Rove asked at the Troy University event. "Or do the people of South Carolina respond to it as they should have, 'What a remarkable thing that John and Cindy McCain adopted a child from Asia, took him into their home as an act of compassion and kindness.'"...Okay, I'm voting for "idiot". At Karl Rove's instruction, I'm now rethinking my original position that he was an evil genius. It now appears that he's a complete moron who stumbles his way from victory to victory, the political equivalent of Shaggy and Scooby, who usually catch the bad guy not by cunning or guile, but by virtue of having accidentally knocked the bad guy out while trying to escape.
"The Bush campaign had nothing to do with it, and the Bush campaign endeavored to stamp out those kinds of things because they hurt George Bush and helped John McCain, not the other way around," Rove added. "Either I'm a genius, or I'm an idiot. Only an idiot would spread trash like that and expect to do their candidate any good."
I suppose it comes from having seen their devotion to honest campaign rhetoric. In 2004, we all saw the Swift Boating of John Kerry. But let's not act like it was anything new--- John McCain was "swift boated" in 2000, dogged by J. Thomas Burch, who tried to rally Veterans For Bush by standing on the dais with Bush and announcing that McCain came home from Vietnam and "ignored veterans", an accusation so absurd based on McCain's legislative record that it would be like accusing Paris Hilton of dressing conservatively. And just like he would again in 2004, when asked by his opponent to condemn false statements, Bush did nothing. The scale was smaller, but the inaction was the same.
Rove's tactics always involve astroturf movements. Whenever the Bush White House tries to promote something unpopular in its agenda, the fake grass roots groups always turn up. "Concerned Women for Harriet Miers", among many others. The only real question is whether the Bush 2000 campaign did it themselves or used an astroturf group to keep their hands clean. After seeing them in action through two campaigns now, I think the answer should be clear.
The outrage should be directed not at those who expect better of our leaders, as Rove proclaims, but at those who cynically take advantage of the most poisonous aspect of the human condition for political gain.