I couldn't agree more with this assessment of the legacy of Karl Rove by Juan Cole. If there was ever a time when the rift between the left and right in the US could have been temporarily healed, and our collective energy harnessed for genuine improvement of our nation and the world, it was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Instead, Rove casually sacrificed that historic opportunity on the alter of momentary political gain. As Cole puts it,
... his most tragic legacy lay in taking something that happened to all Americans, the murderous attacks of Sept. 11, and attempting to turn those calamities into a stick with which to beat his Democratic opponents. In so doing, he desecrated the nearly 3,000 dead for petty factional gains, and wrought enormous injustices on genuine war heroes such as Max Cleland, George McGovern and John Kerry. Long after his permanent Republican majority is forgotten, Rove will be remembered for using his rhetorical gifts to divide instead of unite.
Rove's tactics were deplorable, damaging and, in my view at least, thoroughly un-American. One thing you cannot call them, however, is novel. He's clearly a fine student of history, and the historical lessons of dividing a people against themselves, especially in times of apparent danger when they are most easily manipulated. As Ian Welsh pointed out a while ago, Rove's insights have been used before, even more effectively, and with far greater consequences...
...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."- Herman Goering