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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Karl Rove as Putin's Aide

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Given the tension, mutual suspicion and general bad odor between Russia and the United States over recent years, it's good to see the stars above realigning to make effective cooperation possible again. No, forget the high-level U.S. delegation flying into Moscow this week for "consultations." Think electioneering. In early September, right-wing political guru Karl Rove found himself out of a job. In early October, President Vladimir Putin found himself organizing a political campaign. Bingo!

This is better than "Jupiter aligns with Mars"; this is "compassionate conservatism" joins "waste 'em in the outhouse," making a tag-team that could crush campaign opposition from Yabloko, The Other Russia or WrestleMania.

Some might ask whether this outhouse really requires major remont by Karl "The Architect" Rove. Indeed, with a popularity rating somewhere north of 80 percent, Putin needs to campaign for prime minister about as hard as Prince Charles needs to campaign for king. Barring a tragic fly-fishing mishap, it's a done deal.

Yet how done is done? Putin apparently craves a Soviet-sized mandate, and bridging the gap between an anemic 80 percent plurality and a Brezhnev-style landslide -- well over 99 percent of the vote in the 1979 election, with absentee ballots mailed from Khimki still coming in -- is not as easy as United Russia's drumbeaters might suppose.

There may be foreign observers. It has to look real. No, really real. And the Gryzlovs, Pavlovskys and Leontyevs, now pulling the party barge upriver, know as much about the annoyingly real reality that picky foreigners like as they do about sewing emergency sutures after unpublicized fly-fishing injuries. So who you gonna call?

Putin: Thank you for coming to Moscow on such short notice, Mr. Rove.

Rove: My pleasure, Mr. President. And please call me Karl. Now [rubbing hands], what seems to be your little election problem?

VP: Karl, I want to win this State Duma race big -- I mean b-i-i-i-g [extending arms like lying fisherman], something well into the 90 percent range -- but I can't just stuff the ballot boxes. People might notice.

KR [chuckling]: You'd be surprised what people don't notice. In West Palm Beach and Cuyahoga County, we had "voting irregularities" that ...

VP: I'm talking international observers, Karl, not the Florida secretary of state or something.

KR: No problem, Mr. President -- I've done some foreign bag jobs, too. You see what just happened in France? A swarth-enhanced half-pint America-lover goes up against a cuter version of every Frenchman's mom who just loves the 35-hour workweek -- and he wins?! I wasn't exactly observing when the merde hit the ventilateur for Segolene.

VP: You did that? [low whistle] Wow. OK, let me fill you in on the situation here. We have two oppositions, real and pretend. The real people are hopelessly impractical and divided, but we harass them anyway because, get this, "They want to destabilize Russia" -- that's the slogan for our rent-a-kid activists. Anyway, the pretend opposition is led by a party called ... damn, I had it right here.

KR: It's something like "Relax, It's Just Russia," right?

VP [furrowing brow]: That sounds familiar. Anyway, we can keep the real opposition off TV and out of most print media east of The New Yorker, but the other "oppositionists" are kind of a delicate problem: See, they're supposed to exist, be nicely visible and not do anything off-script, like win too many votes -- which they accidentally might. We can't sic the Nashisty on them or arrange a painful fishing accident for them either. Polls show us way ahead now, but I want someone to make sure they can't jump up and bite us from behind. Can you handle that kind of high-pressure job?

KR: High pressure? Sir, I worked for a man who could launch the world's largest missile force but couldn't pronounce the word "nuclear" [rolls eyes]. I even wrote it out phonetically for his teleprompter, NEW-CLEAR, and he still ... Incidentally, would you mind saying the Russian word for "nuclear"?

VP: "Yaderny" -- why?

KR: Well, if you'd said "yadreny"... Never mind. Mr. President, I will be honored to take over this campaign. Rest assured that on Dec. 2, United Russia will win a dramatic landslide victory without any actual drama or that tiresome ballot counting that can mar a good landslide.

VP: Great, we're counting on you, Karl! [rises slowly, rubbing posterior] Now if you'll hand me that fly rod off the wall-mount there, I have a score to settle with Moby Pike.

Mark H. Teeter teaches English and Russian-American relations in Moscow.