Karl Rove is Bob Shrum with a good cause. (Shrum has run eight presidential campaigns; number won: 0, number lost: 8.) Bush calls Rove the "architect" of his 2004 victory. In 2004, America was at war and the Democrats ran a gigolo to be commander in chief. The nation hasn't changed so much since Reagan was president that the last election should have even been close.
Whenever the nation is threatened by external enemies, the only way Democrats can win a presidential election is with another Watergate. And yet Bush nearly lost the last election. He would have lost, but for the Swiftboat Veterans – also dissed by Bush.
The "architect" of victory was nearly the architect of Bush's defeat when he advised Bush to come out for gay civil unions one week before the election. In terms of generating enthusiasm, this was the campaign equivalent of a teacher assigning homework late on a Friday afternoon. Judging by the results of more than a dozen elections where gay marriage was on the ballot last year, gay marriage is about as popular in this country as a day celebrating Hitler's birthday would be. (It is even less popular than the idea of John Kerry as commander in chief in wartime!)
If Ronald Reagan were running today, Rove would have Bush endorse Reagan's opponent. Establishment Republicans all pretend to have seen Reagan's genius at the time, but that's a crock. They wanted to dump Reagan in favor of "electable" Gerald Ford and "electable" George Herbert Walker Bush.
Newsweek reported in 1976 that Republican "party loyalists" thought Reagan would produce "a Goldwater-style debacle." This is why they nominated well-known charismatic vote magnet Jerry Ford instead.
Again in 1980, a majority of Republican committeemen told U.S. News and World Report that future one-termer George "Read My Lips" Bush was more "electable" than Reagan.
The secret to Reagan's greatness was he didn't need a bunch of high-priced Bob Shrums to tell him what Americans thought. He knew because of his work with General Electric, touring the country and meeting real Americans. Two months a year for eight years, Reagan would give up to 25 speeches a day at G.E. plants – a "marination in middle America," as one G.E. man put it. Reagan himself said, "I always thought Hollywood had the wrong idea of the average American, and the G.E. tours proved I was right."
Because of these tours, Reagan knew – as he calmly told fretful advisers after the Grenada invasion – "You can always trust Americans." The G.E. tours completely immunized Reagan from the counsel of people like Karl Rove, who think the average American is a big-business man who just wants his taxes cut and doesn't care about honor, country, marriage or the unborn.
Reagan knew that this is a great country. If only today's Republicans would believe it.
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