Whore City — "So this is where Hillary used to get all cranked up with
her Big Chill Porsche populism," said
Lee Atwater in his raspy drawl, jittering around Karl Rove's West Wing office, the one formerly occupied by the first lady.
Lee directed his wicked gaze at a red loose-leaf binder labeled "First 180 Days," the meticulous battle plan for the Bush debut.
"Hey, old man," Lee crooned, playing air guitar, "you needed a master plan to screw up that bad?"
Rove couldn't believe his eyes. Here, looking eerily alive, was his
fellow scorched-earth Southern strategist who beat him
to the big time with Poppy Bush, the self-described Grand Old Party Animal who sweet- talked enough coeds to help
Rove win the job heading the College Republicans during Watergate.
And Lee wasn't alone. He was with a very, very old Chinese guy.
"Oh, this is my man Sun-tzu, who wrote `The Art of War,' the Bible for
me and Tony Soprano.
You forgot the Atwater Tao of War Without Mercy, Karl. You need a refresher.
"I was so tickled with you when you smeared McCain in South Carolina
and outfoxed that sissy Gore in Florida.
Winnin' and losin' is everything, and there's nothin' in between.
"But after the Jeffords mess, there are a lot of second-guessers out
there. Don't blink, buddy. When you're down,
double your bet. Don't go squishy. If they sense any weakness, they'll be all over you. And if Junior has one more
bad thing happen, he'll have troubles, troubles, troubles, as my buddy B. B. King sang.
"The problem, man, is that you've strayed into territory that is real
dangerous for a political operative. Old Man Bush
never let me near the White House. Franklin Roosevelt was right when he said you ought to get elected with one set
of people and govern with another. Because governing's for the birds, boy. It's all that dirty complicated junk that we
have to put up with, so we can run every four years. When you're in government, you may as well be in a coma.
"The trick is not to get so full of yourself that you start making stupid
mistakes — even when you're shaking loose a
dog stuck on the back of your leg. Once you win, you start believing you're invincible. I should know. But never let
arrogance override your judgment. When you have a 65-35 Senate, you can play hardball. As Sun-tzu here says,
the battle tactics are dictated by the terrain. If you're confronting the enemy in hemmed-in spaces, you must resort
to strategy, luring them in with the coyness of a maiden and then exploiting the opening with the rapidity of a hare.
Just like ol' Daschle did.
"Revenge is a gas. But you need to be more indirect, Karl. You've got
to sneak up to your enemies and stab them
in the back — and don't leave your fingerprints on the corpse. We're the party of elephants, buddy. I would wait five,
ten years sometimes before breaking somebody's knees over a personal slight.
"As Big Daddy Strom Thurmond used to say, always leave a man a way out.
Letting Jeffords come to that Teacher
of the Year deal was a no-brainer. Never kick a man when he's up, buddy. And in a split Senate, pal, everyone's up.
"You shouldn't be getting involved in all that Hill stuff anyhow. If
the Republican leadership in the Senate wants to
retaliate against one of their own, let them do it. This ain't Texas. Today's opponent is tomorrow's ally. You won't
always have this office, but the power structure here stays the same.
"I always say protect your base. But you've got the chitlin' vote. Now
you need the Chilean sea bass vote. I predicted
baby boomers would be the future of our party. Remember when I called MTV in '85 and requested a John Cougar Mellencamp video in Reagan's name, and then everybody thought Reagan was cool? I preached the Big Tent,
but you've got a pup tent, boy. You never figured out that McCain phenom, did ya? I tried to make the party hip,
and you guys narrowed it back into the party of retreads and extra-chromosomes and guys with a third hand growin'
outta the middle of their heads. Gucci yuppies who drink bottled water don't cotton to arsenic.
"And you've got to find some way to tell Cheney he isn't president.
Brother Tzu and I have to be getting back.
Just remember the Tao of Lee: Play dumb and keep moving."