ABC News reports Saturday afternoon that some flunky in the Bush White House emailed to its full, extensive distribution list (all of the press, friendly religious leaders, conservative movers and shakers, etc.) a Reuters news story saying that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki supports Barack Obama's timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The Muslim Maliki = Barack Hussein Obama. Get it?
The White House says it was an accident, and the story was only intended for its "internal distribution list." At first blush that sounds plausible. After all, a story saying that the Iraqi government wants us gone certainly goes against the message Bush pushes at home about a long term presence, so it would seem to be a foolish mistake to send this out. Besides, every second term presidency is down to the "C" team in the final year because the better people have bailed.
Sure, but what if it wasn't an accident?
What if it was on purpose, a Machiavellian/Rovian method to the madness? The definitive book Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, is a primer on tricks like this.
What if the "accidental" email was sent out to further connect -- in the public's mind -- Obama and Muslims, just when he's on his big Middle East trip, and at the end of the same week as the New Yorker magazine cover? That cover (titled "The Politics of Fear") was obviously meant as satire, a swipe about accepting falsehoods at face value.
Using the frenzied attention it generated to further promote the myths -- by widely disseminating another media story pushing the same message -- would be a typical coin of the realm in the political trade. Happens every day.
Here's their possible calculation: The so-called "Bush Doctrine" is essentially toast at this point, so the president can't be damaged any worse by the Maliki revelation. That's minor compared to what can be gained politically from repetitive linking of Obama to Muslims in the minds of the gullible and misguided. Polls already suggest a certain percentage are on board with such thinking, so this will absolutely be an element of the Republican game plan going forward.
"Oh, look, honey, it says here that Obama and Maliki think alike on Iraq policy. See, I told you he has those sympathies."
Surely we can assume Karl still phones in ideas to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He may be gone, but he hasn't been lobotomized. He's now consulting McCain's campaign, and the White House will no doubt do whatever it can to help the Arizona senator from now until November.
I smell Rove. Then again, I always do. I have a nose for rancid.