Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bush Loses His 'Brain'

Karl Rove Departs The White House, Broken And Battered

A shattered Karl Rove confirmed his departure from the White House. A decision to quit that, he said, came as a surprise, even to him

Today's resignation by White House aide/counsel/adviser Karl Rove brings to an end political working relationship between "Turd Blossom" and George W. Bush that has lasted for than 17 years, and seen Bush elected twice as governor of Texas and twice as President of the United States.

Bush and Rove appeared together in a press call on the White House Lawn, before Rove joined Bush on Air Force One for a flight back to Texas :

In an unusually emotional appearance with President Bush on the South Lawn of the White House, Mr. Rove cited a desire to “start thinking about the next chapter in our family’s life.” His decision was also forced when the White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, recently told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day he would expect them to stay through the remaining 17 months of Mr. Bush’s term.

Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush, who said they had known “each other as youngsters” interested in politics, first discussed his departure last summer, Mr. Rove said, his voice breaking at times. Instead he stayed on, through the midterm elections last fall, which put Democrats in control of Congress and tempered Mr. Rove’s reputation as a political genius who had ushered in an enduring Republican majority.

“It always seemed there was a better time to leave out there in the future,” Mr. Rove said, “but now is the time.”

His standing had already diminished considerably. Since the midterm elections, Mr. Bush’s political problems have mounted in Iraq, his pursuit of a new immigration policy failed in Congress and the White House has had to defend its actions in the dismissals of United States attorneys, among other issues. Mr. Rove, 56, survived an investigation into the leak of the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative only to face a flurry of subpoenas from Democratic-controlled committees on Capitol Hill that he has so far rebuffed, citing executive privilege.

To his critics, and there are many, Mr. Rove embodied the Bush administration’s mode of politics: aggressive, combative, secretive. Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, said that the Congressional investigations swirling around Mr. Rove and others in the White House would continue, regardless of his resignation.

“Mr. Rove’s apparent attempts to manipulate elections and push out prosecutors citing bogus claims of voter fraud shows corruption of federal law enforcement for partisan political purposes,” Senator Leahy said in a statement.

“There is a cloud over this White House, and a gathering storm,” Mr. Leahy said.

More on the Bush-Rove press call :

“Karl Rove is moving on down the road,” President Bush told reporters, amplifying his Texan accent. “I’ll be on the road behind you in a little bit.”

“I am grateful to have been a witness to history,” Mr. Rove said in the beginning of his own remarks. “It has been the joy and honor of a lifetime.”

Both spent a chunk of their comments describing their 34-year friendship. “I would call Karl Rove a dear friend,” Mr. Bush said, remembering their political work as “youngsters.”

Mr. Rove’s voice trembled with emotion as he remembered his time in the White House, including a tribute to his boss. “I’ve seen a man of far-sighted courage that put America on a war footing to protect us against a brutal enemy in a dangerous conflict that will shape this new century.”

“”I will miss — deeply miss — my work here,” Mr. Rove said in a solemn conclusion.

As one of the most famous and influential political strategists, now, in American history, Karl Rove was praised as a genius by supporters and admirers, and damned as all but Satanic by his critics. But through it all Rove seemed to enjoy his "Evil Genius" nickname. He knew he was no genius, but he used his influence to build up his public prominence, in part to buffer the president from the harshest of criticism, for a good many years. Why blame Bush, his strategy went, when you can blame Rove?

With his reams of poll data and 'hit lists' for what appeared to be just about every suburban street and city block in the country, Rove was a number cruncher supremo, who fouled the American politicum with cheap, vicious and nasty gutter politics. Of course, that savage ability to split issues of supreme historical and national importance, like the Iraq War, like the 9/11 attacks, into rhetorical snipes of "Us Vs Them" is exactly why he was so successful, to a point, and why the media were so fascinated by him.

Rove turned American politics, and American elections, into the World Wrestling Federation, with just as many lights and smoke and lasers and roaring cheap shots and absurdly simple characterisations. Rove also made sure there were plenty of folding chairs across the back of his opponents.

His most infamous soul-sucking attack on the Democrats during a speech when he claimed they wanted to offer "therapy" to the terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11, instead of pursuing them or engaging them in war :
"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers..."

But Rove's sometimes amateurish, college-boy dirt campaigns all came at a cost to President Bush, his legacy, to American politics, to the American people, and to Karl Rove himself.

His involvement in the multi-sourced leaking of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, in an effort to discredit the polarising criticism of the case for the Iraq War by her husband, Joseph Wilson, shortly after President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished", has cost Rove dearly.

For nearly all Democrats, and many Republicans, it was one dirty trick too many, and now Rove is out of the White House, he will likely face further prosecution by Democrats, all of which he will have to pay for out of the many millions he is already believed to have signed on for to write his memoirs of his time in the White House, and his 20 odd years as a friend and confidante of George W. Bush.

No doubt Rove's book will be a fascinating one, and it will provide him with a very public platform to try and level the score with his harshest critics, but Rove may well be remembered in decades to come as a man who helped divide the country, when it should have been at its most unified. He will be treated harshly by historians, because in the end, Rove was a failure. His method of divide and conquer, and pure partisanship, helped the Republicans to lose the 2006 mid-term elections, and set the scene for the coming annihilation at the 2008 presidential elections, and laid to waste the more idealistic of Bush's key White House term policies, including the all-but-forgotten restructuring of Social Security, the plan to turn 12 million illegal immigrants into sympathetic Republican voters and the disastrous first year of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Rove also dramatically failed to bring back American support for the Iraq War. For the past two years, it seemed, everything Rove touched turned to toxic stew.

There is huge debate across the US media and blogstream right now on whether Rove decided it was time to go, or whether it was decided for him that his time was up.

The Next Hurrah lays out some of the reasons why Rove may have decided to pack it in now, with the claims by Rove that he simply wanted to "spend more time with my family" crushed underfoot :
"...if he had wanted to spend time with his family, he surely would have done it before his son went to college."
As has been pointed out almost everywhere this morning, in Washington saying that you are leaving a job "to spend more time with my family" is red-banner code for having been fired, or jumping before being pushed. Rumours are running rampant that Rove is bailing before a big story about him breaks, which may be the release or leaking of full transcripts of his five appearances before the Fitzgerald grand jury, or the outing of him as a bisexual.

Rove himself claims the discussion of his leaving the White House began in mid-2006. Rove says he decided to wait until "after the (Iraq troop) surge" and while the US Senate was in recess to make his announcement, and enact a quick goodbye.

One of the few glowing tributes to Rove comes, to no great surprise, from a former staffer :

Some day books will be written about what a phenomenon of nature this man is. But some day books should be written about what a really fine man he is. He was the most relentlessly upbeat person in the White House, giving counsel and encouragement to all, and showing great kindness to many of us and our families. And of course what we all learned as well as what a tremendously strong person this policy wonk and former nerd from Utah is. He withstood pressure, unfair pressure, that would have broken lesser men, and he did it with good cheer, extraordinary equanimity, and without ever becoming cynical.

Andrew Sullivan's mini-demolition of Rove is more in tune with the majority of media comment today :
The man's legacy is a conservative movement largely discredited and disunited, a president with lower consistent approval ratings than any in modern history, a generational shift to the Democrats, a resurgent al Qaeda, an endless catastrophe in Iraq, a long hard struggle in Afghanistan, a fiscal legacy that means bankrupting America within a decade, and the poisoning of American religion with politics and vice-versa. For this, he got two terms of power - which the GOP used mainly to enrich themselves, their clients and to expand government's reach and and drain on the productive sector. In the re-election, the president with a relatively strong economy, and a war in progress, managed to eke out 51 percent. Why? Because Rove preferred to divide the country and get his 51 percent, than unite it and get America's 60. In a time of grave danger and war, Rove picked party over country. Such a choice was and remains despicable.

Rove is one of the worst political strategists in recent times. He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war - and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency. His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government has turned an entire generation off the conservative label. And rightly so. It will take another generation to recover from the toxins he has injected, with the president's eager approval, into the political culture and into the conservative soul.

Rove's final act of spin control was pure luck, in choosing a day when there was virtually no other major news breaking in the United States. His departure is the lead story on CNN, on Fox News (naturally) and dominates the front pages of nearly every major American newspaper. As of this post, the blogstream has seen more than 90,000 individual blogs mostly blast Rove and celebrate his departure, and the comments section of online newspapers are thickening with hundreds of comments, mostly savage, mostly relieved. The tributes, heavy on the praise, are few and far between.

Dan Froomkin, of White House Watch, on the dirt-crusted, failure clouded Rove legacy :

Karl Rove's legacy will not be what he wanted it to be.

The political guru who made President Bush what he is today had hoped to leave behind a permanent Republican ruling majority. Instead, his tenure will stand as an example of how divisiveness and partisanship are not conducive to successful governance.

After years of being lauded as a political genius, Rove nevertheless leaves his party in worse shape than he found it, with his boss profoundly discredited in the eyes of the American people.

When historians look back at Bush's squandered opportunity to unite the country and even the world behind a shared agenda after 9/11, part of the blame will go to Vice President Cheney and the decision to invade Iraq. But part will accrue to Rove for choosing to use national security as a wedge issue.

A Q & A transcript from the White House press corps peppering Rove with questions on his departure, on Air Force One, heading back to Texas, can be read here.

A few highlights :
Look, I love my job. I have fun. It is a joy to walk in the door. I have the most incredible colleagues in the world. And I know it sounds corny, but it's inspiring to walk into the Oval Office, the tone (Bush) sets, you know, the good nature he has, the focus, the vision -- it's inspiring. And I deliberately used that word today because he just -- he makes it a wonderful place to work. And my colleagues make it a magical place to work. And you have such a sense of satisfaction of serving the country and doing important work in combination with some really extraordinary people. And would I like to enjoy that right up until January 20? You bet I would; 526 more days of that would be great. But I wouldn't be doing the right thing by my family, and it really is time for me to do this.


I'm Moby Dick and we've got three or four members of Congress who are trying to cast themselves in the part of Captain Ahab -- so they're going to keep coming.

But anybody who suggests the investigations had something to do with getting me out is sort of putting Congress in the position of being the rooster that believes that by crowing loudly brings the sun to come up.

Rove explains what he claims was key strategy to winning the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and why Republican presidential candidates should follow his advice to win in 2008 :
"...my advice is for the Republicans, which I think, frankly, has become ingrained in the DNA of the Republican Party, which is that in order to win, the Republican Party needs to mobilize a vast army of volunteers to expand the electorate by emphasizing an agenda that is prospective in nature, that looks to the future and says, this is what we intend to do for America, and is bold and clear, but is focused on saying to people, we know you're not enthusiastic about politics, but if you love your country, if you care about the future, here's a message that hopefully will attract you to coming out and registering and voting. That's why President Bush in 2004 got 25 percent more votes than he got in 2000 and became the first presidential candidate since 1988 to get a majority of the popular vote. He won 81 percent of the counties in America; he increased his share of the vote in 87 percent of the counties in America. He got a record or historic number numbers among Latinos, Jews, Catholics, women -- erased the gender gap. And it was because -- not because he played to the base but because he played with a broad and bold message that was able to attract -- think about it, one-quarter more people voted for him in 2004 than voted for him in 2000, and he did that in the midst of an unpopular war..."

Rove also dealt with the now ingrained belief that the President is a dingbat, and he acted as 'Bush's Brain' :
Well, that is -- that's not me. That's an attack on the President. That is the critics of the President trying to be cute. This guy is a Yale undergraduate and history major, a Harvard MBA, and one of the best-read, most thoughtful people I know. Now, I know he likes to play sort of the Midland/West Texas -- but he is smart. And the "Bush's brain" was, interestingly enough, a construct of two journalists as a way to diminish him by suggesting that he wasn't capable of developing his philosophy or his approach or his ability to win elections; somebody had to do it for him, which is incredibly demeaning and really stupid. And I don't mind saying that the two guys that coined it are stupid in their characterization.
Rove announced his departure in an interview with the op-ed editor of the Wall Street Journal yesterday morning. The full story is here. A key quote :
"I'm a myth. There's the Mark of Rove," he says, with a bemused air. "I read about some of the things I'm supposed to have done, and I have to try not to laugh."

Some opinions and comment on the departure of Rove :

"We worked together so we could be in a position to serve this country. And so I thank my friend. I'll be on the road behind you here in a little bit."

President Bush.

"Karl Rove's resignation signals the final chapter in the Bush administration's betrayal of the identity of a covert CIA officer. ... Rove, identified by the prosecutors as one of the leakers, not only was not summarily dismissed, but has been allowed to leave on his own terms, to praise from the president."

Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, was the CIA officer whose name was disclosed.

"He is brilliant, he is funny and he is a passionate advocate for the president and his policies, and I know that he will continue to play that role outside of the administration. ... He was always upbeat. I don't recall ever seeing him down."

Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes.

"It's a tragedy that an administration that promised to unite Americans has instead left us more divided than ever before. Without doubt the architect of that political strategy was Karl Rove, who proved the politics of division may win some elections but cannot govern America."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

"Goodbye, good riddance."

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

"Now is the time for the country to put the politics of division behind it."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

Reading through this 2003 profile of Rove in the New Yorker, it is remarkable to see just how little he actually achieved of his long-term goals and visions for the Bush White House, the Bush legacy and the Republican Party in general.

The gulf between Rove's dreams, and his ability to turn them into reality, was vast indeed, and instead of helping to lead America into a brighter, more cohesive future, Rove went instead for the cheap and nasty shots. And then, like a true coward, he quit before the roof fell in, before the true price for his actions, the karma debt, became fully due.

The Dirty Rotten Tactics Of Karl Rove

Extensive, Enlightening New Yorker Profile On Karl Rove From 2003

Time Magazine, December 2005 : A White House Without Rove?

Karl Rove's Flawed Vision

The Rove Goes On Forever

The Dismal Legacy Of Karl Rove