TCS Daily


A Roving Mind

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - August 21, 2007 12:00 AM

A day after announcing his resignation as White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove had a conversation with the media during which he revealed one of the reasons why the White House will miss him:


Q Any few accomplishments that you single out as some of the ones you're most proud of?


MR. ROVE: I'll think about that in September. This morning, though, at the senior staff meeting, I was very candid with my colleagues. I said that the true story was that I was resigning in protest over our failure to establish equidistance as the principle in the germination of seaward lateral boundaries in the latest version of the act overseeing offshore drilling. I am the leading expert within the administration on this. This actually goes back to Grotios, who was born in 1598, and he wrote this in one of his earliest works. You're all familiar, of course, with Hugo Grotios?


Q Do you like his position on international law? Because that surprises me, because he's kind of pro-international law, and I don't see that coming from your administration.


MR. ROVE: He was concerned about maritime international law and that's where the principle of equidistance comes out in the determination of seaward lateral boundaries between nation states. (Laughter.)


Q Don't encourage him.


MR. ROVE: And it has been upheld in two U.S. Supreme Court decisions and two treaties which the United States signed in 1958 and in 1952


MS. PERINO: Ben, your question.


MR. ROVE: George v. Florida and Louisiana v. Texas, if you wanted to check it out.

Okay, there are probably a number of other reasons the White House will end up missing Rove. Rove helped ensure that George W. Bush won an election in 2000 against a sitting Vice President during a period of peace and prosperity. He and the President took a huge gamble by investing the prestige of the White House in the 2002 midterm elections and the gamble paid off handsomely. And despite a unified Democratic Party and increasing national concern regarding the reconstruction effort on Iraq, Rove helped President Bush win not just re-election in 2004, but a majority of the popular vote: the first Presidential candidate to do so since 1988 when the President's father was elected.

To be sure, Rove's record wasn't perfect. As much as Social Security reform was needed, the White House bungled the effort at reform and gave the Democratic Party a new political lease on life. Rove never paid much attention to the communications operation in the White House and the failure of that operation to counter the President's critics helped bring about the President's low approval ratings. And of course, Rove was plenty distracted by the investigation into the Valerie Plame affair and did not get to work on the 2006 midterms until rather late in the game, much to the benefit of Democrats.

But as the discussion about seaward lateral boundaries Rove had with the White House Press Corps reveals, Rove was always more than just a political operator for the Bush Administration. He was—and is—also a genuine policy wonk. Rove can talk about voting patterns and political coalitions just as fluidly as he can talk about Medicare and entitlement reform. Rove was a unique figure because he not only had his hand in the political operations side of the White House, but on the policy side as well.

No political consultant in living memory appreciated the intersection between policy and politics as well as Rove did. James Carville wouldn't have dared to weigh in on education reform. Lee Atwater would have had nothing to say about welfare policy. Check out this editorial written after Rove's announced resignation and you'll see why he is unique. It is one thing for the Deputy White House Chief of Staff to be involved in political horse-trading on the issue of steel tariffs. But Rove wasn't just engaged in the horse-trading aspect of the debate. He was genuinely interested in the policy side as well.

The reason Rove was so consequential was that he understood that politics and policy do mix. For whatever reason, lots of people in political life don't understand this. Among staffers, the traditional division has been between political operators and campaign consultants on the one side who lack either the patience or the intellectual chops to involve themselves in complicated policy matters and policy wonks on the other side who are either too clumsy to handle political matters or who don't want to sully themselves by getting down to the political nitty-gritty. Because of this division, there are lots of times when the policy wonks get ahead of the political process and mishandle substantive policy challenges because they don't understand the political mood of the moment. And because of this, political operators and campaign consultants oftentimes dumb down the nature of political debate by focusing too much on the gamesmanship involved and not enough on the policy challenges facing the country.

Karl Rove understood that you can't get ahead in the policy world without an understanding of politics and you can't make a lasting contribution as a political operator without understanding policy. Rove was no angel. But he was a force to be reckoned with, and not just because he could help his candidates get elected to public office. He was also a force because of his mastery over the details of the policy process. There are a lot of Democrats who are willing and eager to condemn Rove. But it shouldn't surprise anyone if those same Democrats—particularly those running for President—seek a Karl Rove of their own to help them navigate the political and policy obstacles ahead.

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9 Comments

Thanks Mr. Rove
Appreciate your service to your country and our president. Thanks for the sacrifices you've made and the dignity with which you received the stones and arrows of the opposition. Good luck in your future.

Decent article
A little too glowing given the reality of the damage that has occurred exactly becasue Rove combines politics with policy, that is, infuses politics into everything, including policy. But there are many out there with their nose up Rove's butt that would write a piece of crap about how great he is. The article focuses on the positive while acknowledging the negative. Good work. Could be worse.

For example, prospector used the word "dignity" in conjunction with reference to the stones and arrows sent upon Rove. Lets remember, stones and arrows were Rove's specialty. Nary a stone was thrown not first launched by the architect himself. And the word dignity is about as far from Rove as you can get. He was a scumbag moving about in the shadows in the background, out of view as he sent stones upon his opposition. There is no dignity in that. Rove's tactics are unethical, likely illegal at times, always partisan and predatory to disparage others and bring the weak-minded to his agenda. He served his country with his own interests as his priority, he trampled our Constitution with efforts to make the Executive branch a form of dynasty above the rule of law. Whats funny though, is how he used the religious right for his political ambitions despite personal views opposite the values of the religious right. Rove's pawns.

All that said, I do admire his genius. He was a marketing phenom. Getting Bush elected in 2000 wasn't that difficult. We knew Gore was a joke, but we also didn't want a Texas hillbilly draft dodger oil-man with proven failure in the business world, so Nader received a respectable vote for a 3rd party and we were stuck with the hillbilly. Not even I knew how bad W would be as president, or I would've bitten the bullet and voted for Gore. It was obvious even then that Bush isn't very smart, but he was folksy, people liked that. 2002 was an easy election for Republicans, people were in full grip of The Fear after 9/11, it was easy for Bush to capitalize for Republicans as the party of security. But getting Bush re-elected in 2004 was big. It should've been a cakewalk for Dems, but, Rove had some very effective rocks to sink Kerry with, Kerry helped Rove sink his own boat (Kerry really was a horrible candidate), the Fear was still strong enough in the people and Bush's incompetence wasn't obvious enough yet, he convinced enough of the masses to give him another chance to make up for his first 4 years. Lets not forget, we were in the middle of a war, its tough to change leadership in the heat of battle. Getting the base to the voting booth in 2004 was helpful to Bush but its not what won him the election. It was the moderate masses, people who normally use their head, who are not ideologically bound to a party, who were still in Fear enough to think it was a good idea to give Bush a chance to make up for his mistakes and finish the easy war in Iraq in a second term. People who voted for Bush in 2004 will live with that shame forever, you can't avoid that. But you can be forgiven if you recant, everyone makes mistakes, and that was a whopper.

Good riddance to Rove. Don't call us, we'll call you. I don't wish him harm, I wish him to go spend time with his family and never be in a position of influence again. If he can stay out of jail. Time for the country to heal after Karl the Koward's horrible reign subsides.

Reality
Another post by a resident leftists where:

1.) The post fails to abstain from name-calling & moralizing. Rove isn't wrong, he isn't an opponent, he's a "scumbag". So much for the persistent chatter from the left about elevating the tone of discourse. Insult is first resort of an empty argument.

2.) The post fails to abstain from unfounded charges. In this post, he uses the terms "unethical", "illegal" and "served the country with his own interests as priority" are meritless and without the slightest bit of supporting evidence.

3.) Where there's factual assertions, they are totally without merit. "We knew Gore was a joke"? Give me a break, we're still hearing about how he's a geoprophet and apprarently, the only people that knew Gore was a "joke" were the 49 and change percent that voted against him.

4.) The obligatory declaration of self-admiration that reveals a narcissistic personality: "Not even I knew how bad W would be as president". Amazing how the access to the browsers of millions that internet provides, draws those the most afflicted with delusions of grandeur.

Even if we assume that Bush's inadequacies exceed the last two Democratic presidents-the ones that gave us Iran and 9/11, or that he's stupider or more of a "Texas hillbilly" than LBJ- well we still have to make the leap that "Bobjones" has a special acumen or prescience for political matters. For somebody whose myopia produces responses that are the political equivalent of a roadrunner cartoon. Predictable, consistent and aimed squarely at one's sophomoric impulses.

Thenm again, have Bobjones not wish you harm seems as sincere as a boxer's handshake.



Whew
that's quite the rant. No substance, just the usual venom. Didn't GW Bush pilot the F-102 in the National Guard? I suppose he did dodge the draft by volunteering to serve. Really tricky, eh?

Reality Indeed
This is a tough conversation to have. It is flavored with personal opinion, you can't really debate that. I believe I'm right, but we can hardly debate whether Rove is a "scumbag" per se. You could come back with a presentation of how he is the opposite of what I presented. But that would be tough to do given reality.


1- "Rove isn't wrong, he isn't an opponent, he's a "scumbag"."

I thought scumbag would express that he is wrong. Not sure he is an opponent so much, except in the sense he works for the government that represents all Americans but he only serves those who support him. Scumbug fits pretty well for Rove. Given his dubious tactics and partisan results, topped with an unwillingness to accept any form of responsibility for his actions.
Good thing my argument isn't a first resort, its moreso overflowing than empty. And it is moralizing, I did that on purpose. I strongly expressed my opinion based on the reality of what we know about Rove's actions and influence. If you're in his personality cult you would disagree with me of course, about 15-20% of people are in that category. I dare say, the remaining 80% know what I'm talking about and agree, because they recognize reality, its easy to see, its common knowledge. They don't need a ton of knowledge, its natural to have a negative association with Karl Rove. He has earned it.


"2.) The post fails to abstain from unfounded charges."

I didn't explain the charges, but they are hardly unfounded. Rove is very good at avoiding responsibility: ignoring a subpeona, withholding documents, claiming executive priviledge. We know enough to know he is bad for the country, just imagine what he considers so important to keep secret that he ignores a court-ordered subpeona! He should probably be in jail.


"3.) "We knew Gore was a joke"? Give me a break, we're still hearing about how he's a geoprophet and apprarently, the only people that knew Gore was a "joke" were the 49 and change percent that voted against him.

Gore is a "geoprophet" today, he was not so in 2000. Gore would have a better chance of getting elected today than in 2000. Actually, it was 48 and change percent that voted for Bush. Another 2.8 million people (2.7%) voted for Nader. I think a good portion of those voters couldn't stomach either candidate, myself included.


"4.) The obligatory declaration of self-admiration that reveals a narcissistic personality: "Not even I knew how bad W would be as president"."

I'm curious how I'm narcissistic by making a statement that I had a misunderstanding or was wrong about something? I regret voting for Nader now, now that I've experienced the worst President in our country's history. I don't know how anyone could've known Bush would be this bad. Especially considering his decent record as Governor of Texas.


"Even if we assume that Bush's inadequacies exceed the last two Democratic presidents-the ones that gave us Iran and 9/11, or that he's stupider or more of a "Texas hillbilly" than LBJ- well we still have to make the leap that "Bobjones" has a special acumen or prescience for political matters."

I don't compare Bush to the last two Democratic presidents. I don't compare him to LBJ. We don't need to compare him to anyone to know he is a horrible President. Frankly, comparing him as you do is the first resort to deflect criticism. Its a game you play. I criticize Bush so you bring up Clinton. You've used this tactic since day 1 of the Bush Administration, its just as meaningless now as it was then. But thats your purpose: deflect criticism at all costs, avoid debate.

We know W isn't very smart, just watch his speeches, watch him when he takes questions off-the-cuff, read his body language. And we know he is a hillbilly BECAUSE he comes from Texas. Thats my opinion, my bias in general. Maybe its not fair, but lets be real. I know good people in Texas, I know idiots in Texas, the state in general is an embarrassment to America. But Texas isn't alone, Florida wants to be the most embarrassing state of the Union. We should sell them both to Mexico, it would improve both countries.

not tricky at all
If you recall the period in its context, joining the National Guard was a very common way to avoid being sent to the jungles in Vietnam. I believe it was even rather difficult to get into the Guard at that time, I wonder why that was... we should ask George Bush senior how his son got to the front of the line to join. Then we can ask Junior where he was during that time he was supposed to be serving but no one and no documentation can corroborate where he was.

Its not tricky at all. Its rather obvious.

Bobjones is a liar and has admitted it. Now, pay your penance.
I recall it very well. I was station chief DaNang 525th MI Grp in 1971-72 when GWBush was serving his country in a differing, but equally important capacity. GWBush is not a draft dodger and to say otherwise is a scurrilous lie. He trained and piloted an F-102, the most dangerous aircraft in our USAF, at the time. He scrambled numerous times on missions, never knowing if it was a drill or the real thing. Contrary to your slander, this does require far greater courage than the vast majority of Americans are willing to muster. Cold War... remember that? Many incursions by USSR Bear spy planes in U.S. air space... any of this ring a bell in that vaccum you call your brain?

It is, however, true, by their own admission, that Howard Dean and Bill Clinton are draft dodgers. Why don't you direct your stupid vitriol against real draft dodgers -- our resident failed citizen, Roy Bean for one.

No Subject
Come on now killbuzz, don't let your fascination with W's personality get the best of your understanding of reality. I thank you for your service and salute your own courage in serving your country. But don't be stupid about this. There were many ways to avoid the draft, being lucky enough to join the National Guard and retain one's honor while avoiding combat in the jungle was a good option. Bush Sr pulled the strings that got Jr this honor. Thats much better than our imperial VP Cheney getting 5 deferments to avoid serving. You're a veteran man! Doesn't it make you sick to vote for a VP with 5 deferments but is now very willing to send our troops into combat without the equipment they need, and then extend their tours to boot?! You're sick dude. What have Bush/Cheney ever done for you, for the military? Bigger budgets? Bigger budget is nice when it actually benefits the troops, but Bush/Cheney's doesn't do that, in fact they cut veteran benefits. You get lip service from Bush/Cheney, thats it. Is that really all you require for your loyalty?

Yeah, you tell me, what requires more courage, training an F-102 or facing bullets in a jungle halfway around the world not knowing who is your enemy or your ally? I'm not knocking piloting a fighter, I believe that takes courage also. But that courage is easier to muster when facing the alternative.

I don't see what Soviet spyplanes over US airspace has to do with Bush.

I tell you what, I would give my vitriol to Dean and/or Clinton if they were destroying our country like W is today. You bet I would if either of them wanted to invade another country and then turned around and questioned MY patriotism for questioning their decisions. Cheney, a guy with 5 deferments to avoid serving, a guy who ten years ago explained why invading Iraq was a bad idea, but ten years later ignores his own wise explanation and takes us headlong into a war of choice in a place we don't understand... etc., etc., etc.

You can do better killbuzz. Too many of you old-timer veterans sold your loyalty to the neo-cons for nothing more than lip service. Be a proud Republican all you want, but don't let shamsters like Bush/Cheney take your honor. They are not Republicans. They don't care about veterans. Read their actions not their words and you will see this as truth.

No lip service
by GWBush. He actually implemented the Iraq policy of the United States Congress and has acted in accordance to Jeffersonian projection of democratic salvation. BTW, Jefferson never wore the uniform of the Continental Army. Was he unqualified to be president and declare war on the Barbary Pirates? FDR never wore the uniform of the United States Armed Forces. By your logic, he was not qualified to lead our nation to war against the Axis powers. Your position on this is absolutely untenable. To extend your opinion to the next logical step: since a U.S. president must be prepared to lead the nation to war, only a combat veteran is qualified to run for president. Pretty much eliminates your democratic candidates, eh? Your only choice is John McCain.

You can't make the connection between CCCP Bear spyplanes (launched from Cuba) and the Air National Guard (who is charged to defend our airspace) because you don't know jack about it. Sad. Public education on display.

BTW, I have no problem with Cheney's deferments. They were legal, legitimate, and warranted. He had two young daughters to feed.

My honor is my own to defend and it would be you and the weak pussi*s you represent that would try to take it from me.

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