I remember very vividly a heated argument with Karl Rove over eight years ago in which I worried about spending and deficits. "Deficits don't matter!" Rove kept repeating in that nasal world-weary tone he has. After a bit, I said, "What do you mean, deficits don't matter? Don't you remember the 1990s?" "No, no, no, no, Andrew," he replied. "What I mean is that people don't vote on deficits. That's why they don't matter."
I learned then that nothing beyond short term politics motivates Rove. Nothing. And I also learned: this fathomless cynicism is not just repulsive, it's invariably wrong. People sure did vote on deficits in 1992. And one small reason Obama won in 2008 is because many Independents and Republicans couldn't trust the GOP to stop spending and borrowing us into oblivion in an era of economic growth.
Now, Rove - whose shamelessness is only matched by his incompetence - is writing a deficit hawk column for the WSJ.
The sliver of argument he has left is that the debt we now face is vaster than we imagined only a year ago. The reason? Rove would have you believe it's those spend-and-splurge Democrats. In fact, of course, the massive debt has been building for years and its new height was precipitated by the recession begun under Bush (who was still in office a year ago), by the stimulus necessary to prevent a total abyss, by the bailout money required to rescue the banks, and by the continued de-leveraging after the reckless private borrowing of the Bush-Cheney years.
What Rove requires is what Palin requires: total amnesia of what they just said or did. There is nothing deeper to either of them than the cynical attempt to spin the next five minutes to their own advantage and at the cost of the country in general. One knows better; the other knows nothing. Together, they represent a useful spectrum of the degeneracy on the Republican right.