In his 1970 book, The Order of Things, the French philosopher Michel Foucault proclaimed that the concept of man "is an invention of recent date" and would soon disappear, "like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea." Foucault and other postmodernists argued that the individual self (or subject) is an ideological construct, and that there is no "truth" aside from discursive myths society perpetuates and constructs through language and thought. Karl Rove, with his recent history lesson on the Charlie Rose show, has posited a similar set of ideas. For Rove, like Foucault, there is no such thing as objective "truth," only assertions mediated through an ever-shifting discourse where the past and the future matter little and are infinitely malleable.
Rove's recounting of the run-up to the Iraq invasion is not, as some commentators called it, historical "revisionism." Historians who revise history must do so through constructing an argument. Any historical argument must have the minimal prerequisite of an evidentiary base. What Rove has given us is not an argument but an assertion, and it is an assertion devoid of evidence in the historical record whatsoever. Worse still, it is an assertion that is diametrically opposed to the record. It is a sad and cynical display that would make even George Orwell's jaw drop.
"One of the untold stories" about the war in Iraq, Rove told Charlie Rose (who is ever eager for a snow-job from his national security guests), is that the Bush administration had been "opposed" to Congress holding the vote authorizing the use of military force in Iraq prior to the 2002 midterm elections because "we thought it made it too political."
Rove's assertion is that he and his boss were so high-minded they opposed using the September/October 2002 rush to war for "political" gain. So Rove argues that all of those Republican National Committee smears against the Democrats as "appeasers" and peaceniks in the face of Saddam's "stockpile" of WMDs were all just constructed epistemes denuded of intrinsic meaning? And all of those belligerent demands for a U.S. attack on Iraq emanating from Bush administration mouthpieces, including Rove, because Saddam constituted a "gathering threat" were destined to fade like "faces drawn at the edge of the sea?"
According to Rove, the hasty invasion of Iraq with all of its concomitant ills arose from the actions of those impolitic Democrats who controlled the Senate in 2002. Warmongering Democrats like Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton (as well as Dick Gephardt in the House) were so determined to attack Iraq and squeeze from it political advantage that they "made things move too fast," Rove asserted. "We" -- meaning the Bush administration -- "don't determine when the Congress votes on things," Rove said with a straight face, "the Congress does."
In a her blog yesterday, Arianna Huffington pointed out that Rove's take on recent history is a "shameless, remorseless, soulless attempt to rewrite history." But it is actually even worse than that because Rove did not "attempt to rewrite history" so much as he just lied about what happened five years ago. Rove was trying to throw his own dirty laundry at the Democrats (as he always does). And in the process he exposed for all to see his utter contempt for the American people. Rove obviously believes that Americans are so dumb they have no memory of what happened last week let alone five years ago. Therefore he can test the limits of the collective subjectivity of our political discourse, and the malleable nature of "truth," and just make shit up on PBS.
And this guy is going to be a regular columnist for Newsweek magazine?