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Karl Rove Channels Maureen Dowd

Jul 04, 2008 | Updated May 25, 2011

Say what you will about the chattering classes' inane regard for the alleged genius of Karl Rove -- it's obvious now he was a disaster for the nation and for not one but two political parties. But the one thing he did know how to do was forge devastating political takedowns, attacks that were so audacious that they often worked, in spite of -- and because of -- their absurdity and unfairness. Josh Marshall dubbed this the bitch-slap theory of electoral politics: if your opponent is strong, you attack his strength even though it might look ridiculous, betting he'll be too stunned to fight back. That way you look strong, he looks weak.

Now, however, Rove's best shots against Obama appear to be Maureen Dowd-esque riffs on the candidate's personality, which seem either made up and remote from ordinary experience -- Obama with a beautiful date, smoking, at a country club? -- or so unremarkable it's surprising he managed to get them published at all: Obama, a guy running for president, is self-centered.