Tuesday, August 14, 2007


News cycle today dominated by coverage of Karl Rove (check out RealClearPolitics for numerous links).

Analysis tends to fall as one would expect depending on party lines.

One I liked best from the right (Rich Lowry) here. From the left, Josh Green here.

The Democrats gave him gifts by having Bob Shrum, one of the biggest morons in the political consultancy class (itself a breeding ground of fools), run Al Gore's 2000 and Kerry's 2004 campaigns. That being said, Rove will be correctly remembered for having pulled some impressive electoral wins.

My main criticism of the so-called Rove strategy was in the wake of 9/11, the administration chose to play 50+ .01 politics (Democrats might have done the same thing had they been in power incidentally but that's a hypothetical). We do know the Republicans did. Actually truth be told for the election it was 50+.01, after the election it was 30%-35%.

I don't know how much that was Rove and how much was Bush (or both of them). But Bush calling on no national sense of sacrifice, cutting taxes during a war, and misleading the public into the idea of a short quick victory, thereby leaving them simply to "trust" the government--and thereby the massive overreach and destruction of rule of law/unitary executive. My guess is Rove was partly behind some of those policies--if he so though he was certainly not alone. Or at least he wasn't opposed to them. But who knows. Maybe he was just following Bush's orders. The buck stops at Bush any way you slice it.

In leadership circles they talk about content, context, and process. Rove knew what content he wanted (immigration reform to bring Hispanics into the GOP, faith-based initiatives, partial privatization of Social Security). All of those (plus education reform) were busts. Either in terms of the ideas (No Child) or the execution (Immigration).

He had his context, ambitious in scope (a permanent Republican majority at local, state, and Congressional/Judicial Levels.

What he lacked was process. He knew electoral process like nobody else. With his application of niche marketing to politics as a permanent feature from now on of elections and campaigns, in both parties. He was an amazing merger of policy wonk and election guru.

But the process of government he knew not. Bush seemingly doesn't care about the governing process (whether he knows it or not being a separate question). [He's a decider not a communicator]. That plus the Tom DeLay House Republicans running less on original ideals than simply on graft and power, created the perfect storm of Republican incompetence. Republicans had some negative images prior to Bush II (white male club, e.g.) but incompetence was not one of them. Nor an inability for people to take responsibility for mistakes. Incompetence is bad enough; excused incompetence is very very bad---how many times with Gonzales or Rumsfeld (or pick one) did you hear, "I don't know...." "I wasn't aware of such X (meetings, notes, pieces of evidence).

Again Rove was an adviser. He was not in the man in charge. The question of accountability always falls back to Bush.

I'm not a fan of reductionist psychologizing answers, but I would note that the scion of a bluebloods, who himself was never really held accountable (he was not the favored, serious, groomed son that was Jeb), showed a similar inability to hold anyone else accountable. And when he (sorta) did, say with Rumsfeld, it was so patently botched, that it was pretty clear he knew not of what he was doing. Perhaps because he was not himself held (in his youth particularly) to such standards, Bush never knew how to apply them to others? Possibly.

If Rove was "Bush's Brain", he was not Bush's "guts" (or whatever the "decider function" is). The only question worth asking on that front is perhaps what did Rove see in Bush that he choose him as his political vehicle? Was that a sound a judgment or not?


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