Monday, November 29, 2004

Send Rove on Over

In today's Wall Street Journal Europe, I suggest dispatching Karl Rove to the EU, where he might help orchestrate victories in the various constitutional referendums. You need a subscription to read it online, but I'll post the article below for those of you who don't have one. Please don't tell the fine people at Dow Jones...

Roving Europe

November 29, 2004

After masterminding President George W. Bush's re-election victory,
Karl Rove probably needs a new challenge. Nothing could be more
difficult than getting the EU's unwieldy constitution through a series
of national referendums.

Soon, up-or-down votes on the controversial 855-page (including annexes, protocols and declarations) document will be held in many of the EU's 25 member states -- among them the U.K., Ireland, Denmark and other "countries like France." But EU leaders and political spin-meisters have proven exceedingly inept at communicating the constitution's benefits, and polls show support for it slipping almost everywhere.

If even one country votes no, the constitution is dead. Who better than the widely acknowledged "Smartest Man in Politics" to sell an almost entirely unsellable and incomprehensible document to an increasingly dubious electorate?

So, just as he did for Mr. Bush, Mr. Rove might come up with a targeted campaign effort in each problem country. Here's how it might look:

• The U.K.: This will be the toughest nut to crack. Most Britons do not even think of themselves as European, much less support the idea of giving up more of their "sovereignty" to Brussels via a constitutional treaty.

Classic Rovian strategy here would comprise a two-pronged effort. Prong number one involves countering the influence of Rupert Murdoch. Yes, he was on Mr. Rove's -- sorry, Mr. Bush's -- side in the U.S. election, but his coverage of the referendum debate will not be so fair and balanced. Fortunately, there are other tabloids in Britain that rival Mr. Murdoch's Sun and Times of London. They also have Page Three girls and run made-up stories about the royal family. Throw in a forged memo and let the bloggers handle the rest.

Prong two requires discrediting the man who has become the telegenic face of the anti-constitution effort: Former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk. After being booted from his BBC chat program for making some controversial remarks about Muslims, Mr. Kilroy-Silk took up the banner of the fiercely anti-Europe U.K. Independence Party and wound up winning a seat in the European Parliament.

But several skeletons could be let out of his closet -- by privately funded groups acting independently of the pro-constitution campaign, of course. For example, in a publicity stunt reminiscent of John Kerry's tossing of Vietnam War medals over a U.S. Capitol fence, Mr. Kilroy-Silk was the star attraction at a demonstration during which a copy of the EU constitution was brandished ominously near Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London.

Traitor's Gate -- sometimes the 60-second spot just writes itself.

• Denmark: This small Scandinavian country has proven to be an inveterate flip-flopper when it comes to EU referendums -- a reputation that should be exploited to maximum effect. Case in point: Denmark actually voted against the Maastricht Treaty before it voted for it. Just as the indecisive Hamlet eventually chose the road that led to self-destruction, so can today's wavering Danes be trusted to eventually vote "yes" -- and, with Mr. Rove's help, maybe even in less
than two rounds.

• Ireland: Forget trying to win the whole country, it's not going to happen. But Mr. Rove will have done his homework, and certainly knows that old Irish political maxim: "As votes the Dingle Peninsula, so votes County Kerry." Besides, Ireland has gone from being one of Europe's poorest states to one of its richest, all thanks to lavish infusions of money taken by Brussels from taxpayers in other, wealthier European nations. So it's really not too different from Florida.

• France: First order of business is a massive get-out-the-vote operation, consisting mainly of explaining to the French electorate just exactly what is a referendum and how it works. Then, have Jacques Chirac give a nationally televised speech in which he argues that a non vote on the constitution will hand over effective control of EU foreign policy to "countries like the U.S."

If all else fails, organize a train strike.

Copyright 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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