Newsweek has announced that Karl Rove will be the right-wing answer to Markos “Kos” Moulitsas.
It’s actually an interesting matchup, all things considered. Kos’ raison d’être is to get Democrats elected. He’s a party hack. Karl Rove’s job has been to get Republicans elected. He could be fairly called the same thing. On that score, it’s a relatively even game.
On the other hand, Karl Rove has years of political experience, is a genius when it comes to the tactics and skills needed to organize a campaign, and is a decent enough writer. Kos, by any real comparison, is an amateur whose been able to raise some decent amount of money, but whose political achievements are minimal at best. Karl Rove defeated John Kerry, a well-financed national candidate. Kos has at best thrown money at candidates who were likely to win anyway. About the only credible claim he can make for political success is supporting Jon Tester in Montana, and even then it was because Tester was running against a very vulnerable Republican.
The other reason why Kos is on the losing end of this deal is because Karl Rove knows how to argue. Politics isn’t about screaming and yelling and declaring your position to be the only right position and treating all who disagree as heretics. It’s about being persuasive and framing issues. Kos has never been able to do that. He preaches to the choir, and that’s why his appeal is limited to only those who already agree with him.
That’s the essential problem with Newsweek’s matchup. Setting up two partisans and letting them fight gets boring after a while. Is either of them going to say anything surprising? Would either of them go “off script?” It doesn’t seem likely.
A battle between someone like Jonah Goldberg and Peter Beinart is interesting because both of them share some principles and are willing to discuss real issues. A matchup of someone like Joshua Micah Marshall versus John Hinderaker would be fascinating because both are partisans, but they’re intelligent partisans who aren’t afraid to get into deeper discussions than “my candidate is good and yours sucks.”
While the Kos/Rove matchup could be interesting, Newsweek is taking the easy way out. After a while, the same old fights get boring. Then again, I suspect that if this works it will be because of the NASCAR effect: people will watch to see what happens when somebody ends up crashing all over the guardrail. There’s a certain amount of appeal in that, but Crossfire this ain’t…
The two are perfectly matched. Rove led the Republican party to ascendancy in the state of Texas. He then helped steer George W. Bush to the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, and managed Bush’s two successful general election campaigns.
Markos helped spearhead Howard Dean’s march to the Democratic nomination in 2004. Then, in 2006, he was instrumental in unseating Sen. Joseph Lieberman. More recently, Markos was the first to realize that Mark Warner would emerge as the frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
Apart from ideology, the only difference I perceive is that Rove surely writes better than Markos.