In Defense of Karl Rove

 

STAFF PORTRAITS OF KARL ROVEKevin D. Williamson had a piece in National Review Online this weekend on the man both sides love to hate.

For the Left, Rove served for many years as the go-to bogeyman, the marquee name with which to conjure before Democrats discovered Charles and David Koch. “Karl Rove” was how the Left pronounced “Satan.”

What has been peculiar in the years since then is Rove’s transformation from left-wing hate totem to right-wing hate totem, an all-purpose villain whose name is used liberally by tea-party groups and conservative populists raising funds for races in which he has no involvement.

Read and discuss.

Williamson — and his frequent collaborator, Charlie Cooke — is among the best of the younger NR contributors and would be welcome on Ricochet any time.

Image Credit: “Karl Rove” by White House – http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/results/leadership/bio_383.html (direct link). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Kevin has been on the podcast a time or two. He’s always interesting and informative.

    • #1
  2. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    “The GOP was in bad odor, and not without some good reason.”

    Karl Rove is as responsible for what happened in 2008 as anyone else.

    “Insiders Blame Rove for Covering Up Iraq’s Real WMD”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/16/insiders-blame-rove-for-covering-up-iraq-s-real-wmd.html

    Someone decided to let the claims that the WMD concerns were made up go unanswered, and thus be seen as truth by many.  I’ve always found it inexplicable that they didn’t make it more of a focus.

    “He was Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration until Rove’s resignation on August 31, 2007. He has also headed the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Rove

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Klaatu: Williamson (along with Charlie Cook) is among the best of the younger NR contributors.  Rob and Peter, you should see about adding him to the Ricochet team.

    I think this would be fantastic. I like both of these writers.

    • #3
  4. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    Kevin D. Williamson had a piece in National Review Online this weekend on the man both sides love to hate

    Williamson (along with Charlie Cook) is among the best of the younger NR contributors.  Rob and Peter, you should see about adding him to the Ricochet team.

    Kevin is ~42 now.  So at what stage does one progress from a youthful contributor to more of mature producer in the spectrum of life?

    I know from email exchanges that he is mindful (dare I say sensitive) of his age. We had an back and forth about a reference he made and I suggested it placed him in his 50’s. He shot back hey I’m only 38.

    When folks comment about my childhood references I just say “I’m not dead yet”

    As for Charlie I believe he is still under thirty so you millennial’s “can still trust him

    And yes I think his writing has become brilliant, perhaps even Goldbergian

    • #4
  5. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Rove is at least partly responsible for a moderate Republican president introducing some huge and costly programs to the national debt.  Noting that, I have a suspicion that Rove is a moderate professional Republican whose idea of success is supporting moderate professional Republicans, win or lose.

    Since we disagree on this position, I don’t send him money and he does not make donations on my behalf.

    For what it is worth, my impression of the Koch brothers is that they are libertarian in their political outlook.  Since I am a conservative I have no brief against them, but also do not expect them to necessarily support candidates on my side of the ledger.

    • #5
  6. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    I turn like a battleship, it takes me a very long time to turn against someone I once admired. For the entire Bush administration I wondered and wondered why they would not answer back , I  watched the disaster slowly unfold, all the while thinking and hoping that they knew what they were doing. After it was all over and the Republican brand was destroyed beyond recovery I heard Rove admit that that probably wasn’t a good idea. We now have voting age adults who have never heard the Republican party defend itself from the charges of racism and all the other slanders that have been allowed to fester.  In the past the architect of a blunder of this magnitude would simply retire from public life instead of hanging around carping at those who are attempting to clear and rebuild among the wreckage he caused. 2000 and 2004 can be looked at another way, Rove ‘the architect’ twice barely managed to eke out victories against two of the least likeable characters in American history. Even the 1962 Mets managed to win 40 games.

    • #6
  7. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Tuck:“The GOP was in bad odor, and not without some good reason.”

    Karl Rove is as responsible for what happened in 2008 as anyone else.

    “Insiders Blame Rove for Covering Up Iraq’s Real WMD”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/16/insiders-blame-rove-for-covering-up-iraq-s-real-wmd.html

    Someone decided to let the claims that the WMD concerns were made up go unanswered, and thus be seen as truth by many. I’ve always found it inexplicable that they didn’t make it more of a focus.

    “He was Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff during the George W. Bush administration until Rove’s resignation on August 31, 2007. He has also headed the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Rove

    As I posted in the thread dealing with the chemical weapons issue, there was no cover up with regard to the discovery of old chemical munitions in Iraq.  This article from the Armed Forces Press Service is from June 2006.

    Given the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, voter fatigue wi the GOP after 8 years of Republican control of the White House, there was very little chance of any Republican winning in 2008.  Blaming Rove or anyone else for what happened is absurd.

    • #7
  8. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Maybe you read all about it in the Armed Forces Press Service, but most of us never heard about it until last week. The credible reporting suggests that Rove was behind burying the story (and it was buried, hidden from Congress even). To me, that is a monumental error in judgment, which contributed to people’s distaste for Republicans in ’08.

    • #8
  9. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    On the WMD I’m more inclined to assume a security reason for keeping it under wraps even at a political cost. I’d prefer that every day of the week over blowing security for political gain like the current administration.

    • #9
  10. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    gts109:Maybe you read all about it in the Armed Forces Press Service, but most of us never heard about it until last week. The credible reporting suggests that Rove was behind burying the story (and it was buried, hidden from Congress even). To me, that is a monumental error in judgment, which contributed to people’s distaste for Republicans in ’08.

    The story was not limited to AFPS, Fox News covered it here.  As the article points out, members of Congress (Sen. Santorum and Rep. Hoekstra specifically) were aware as well.

    • #10
  11. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    I’m with Tuck on the big mystery about why Bush wouldn’t stand up like a man against the Dems and the media in the same way he would against our Islamist enemies. When Kerry and Clinton turned their coats 180 for political reasons against Bush and claimed that he had lied this simply had to be fought. It undermined the world-wide effort against the Islamists.

    I have always been suspicious that Rove was behind this reluctance to defend themselves. Here’s what Rove says in his book, pg. 342:

    The acidic effect of the Democratic assault was felt more broadly as a decline in the president’s approval ratings and other measures of trust. Left unanswered, the charge allowed Democratic critics to claim a moral high ground they did not deserve, since many of them had supported the decision to go to war.

    But I am under no illusions; the failure to find stockpiles of WMD did great damage to the administrations’s credibility. Our weak response in defense of the president and in setting the record straight is, I believe, one of the biggest mistakes of the Bush years. When the pattern of the Democratic attacks became apparent in July 2003, we should have countered in a forceful and overwhelming way. This assault was worthy of of significant attention by the entire White House, including a rebuttal delivered in a presidential address. We should have seen this for what it was: a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency.

    It’s enough to make one weep, isn’t it? So pathetic that they did know what to do, every single conservative in the country knew what to do and told them for years what to do — yet, this admission only comes the day after he can do anything about it.

    And did you notice that the dagger seemed only poised against Bush — didn’t they notice that it damaged America. Couldn’t he also be enough of a Republican to talk about the damage done to the party? The Republicans are the ones who won the cold war and we are all that stands against the Islamists and our other enemies.

    And was that dagger only “poised” or was it thrust in hilt deep?

    Rove wasn’t an architect, he was just a master carpenter. No grand vision, just tactical cunning.

    • #11
  12. 3rd angle projection Member
    3rd angle projection
    @

    Rove’s only win was Bush. Twice I suppose. Everything else he touches turns to leaden rock. I view him as a menace more than anything else. I wish Fox would put him and his stupid little white board in a closet. What are we, 4th graders? He’s a fat headed dim wit as far as I’m concerned.

    • #12
  13. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Hold the phone, Klaatu. Read Eli Lake’s piece on Karl Rove burying the WMD issue. Yes, Santorum knew about it, but he was furious with the White House for not saying anything about it publicly. And, he eventually went public with (some) of the information in 2006, against the White House’s wishes.

    But, he didn’t have the full story: the reports you reference discuss 500 weapons found–there were thousands more discovered. There’s also a big difference between the President saying something and a senator, who the press never liked, having a single press conference on an issue. So, yes, there were scattered reports floating around about this, but nothing like a coordinated media campaign to rebut the Democrat / liberal line about no WMDs.

    And, that failure can be directly tied to Bush’s unpopularity and Republican struggles for a period of years following 2008. It’s not singularly responsible for Obama, but it didn’t help.

    • #13
  14. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    There is a world of difference between saying Rove and the White House covered something up and saying they failed to make a sufficiently large public case.
    You can disagree with a political decision to not publicize these findings without resorting to accusations of cover up.

    • #14
  15. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    Thanks for the link gts109.

    • #15
  16. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    You’re the one who keeps injecting the term “cover up” into the discussion. Rove buried the story and put out the word not to talk about it. The extent of the WMDs found in Iraq also seems not to have been made public until recently. I’m not accusing him of concealment or some related wrongdoing (although I wouldn’t rule it out, given what we know); I’m accusing him of having made a colossally stupid judgment error. Bush went along with it, of course, so it’s ultimately his fault. But this was Rove’s decision.

    Does anyone else remember when Rove was totally embarrassed on election night 2012? He was insisting that there was a possibility Romney could take Ohio. But he was completely wrong. A calm, cool, and collected Fred Barnes took him into the back room and showed him how to do the math correctly. Even in his supposed area of expertise, he looked like a hack.

    • #16
  17. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Rove was either influential in the formulation and presentation of Dubya’s policies or he was not. If he was, he deserves to be blamed for the failures in direct proportion to the influence he had. If he was not, he deserves to be scorned as an overrated wannabe.

    Can’t have it both ways.

    • #17
  18. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Perhaps I am mistakenly referring to charges made in the other thread in the subject, I apologize.

    The decision not to publicize the discovery of these weapons was ultimately made by the President not Rove. Rove may have been the inspiration for the decision or he may have been simply carrying out the President’s decision. Perhaps Bush will someday explain the reasoning behind the decision but the focus on Rove is a bit strange.

    • #18
  19. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I have met several people who served in the Bush White House, and I always ask them why the Administration did not respond to the leftist lies about WMD’s and the entire Iraq War.  The answers I have received have been consistent — (1) the White House staffers were as frustrated with the policy as any of us, and (2) the policy came from Bush himself.  Something about trusting the verdict of history, or some such rubbish.

    I think it is silly to blame Rove.  Bush was not the simpleton/puppet the left likes to think.  He made his own policy decisions.

    • #19
  20. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    Even if they had proclaimed the discovery of the chemical weapons from the rooftops, the public still would have turned against the Iraq War. These old weapons were nothing at all like what the Bush administration was claiming we would find.

    Conservatives, including me, were wrong about the Iraq war; the left was correct.

    • #20
  21. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Alternative history is a mug’s game.

    Liberals would not have accepted this evidence as proof that the war was justified or that Bush did not lie.

    They did not care that Biden, Kerry, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and virtually every other Democrat agreed that Saddam had WMD and would use them against our troops.

    They constantly repeated that Bush lied when he claimed that the threat was imminent, when in fact he said that we can’t wait until it is imminent.

    They held to their belief in Joe Wilson’s false claim that Saddam was not seeking yellowcake in Niger, and said Bush lied when he claimed that British intelligence believed Saddam was seeking it, when it turns out that the British did believe it, and he was seeking it.

    They claimed Bush acted unilaterally when he had a large coalition, many UN resolutions, and a vote of Congress to back him up.

    There is the truth, and then there is what liberals believe.

    • #21
  22. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    wmartin:Even if they had proclaimed the discovery of the chemical weapons from the rooftops, the public still would have turned against the Iraq War. These old weapons were nothing at all like what the Bush administration was claiming we would find.

    Conservatives, including me, were wrong about the Iraq war; the left was correct.

    Did you think the only reason for the Iraq War was WMD? I didn’t. The media certainly got many people to believe this but it was never true. Read about it. Look at what Powell did in the UN. Look at how many Dems voted for it and worked hard for it. Read what Hillary Clinton and John Kerry said about it at the time. You have been suckered by the left and their control of the media.

    The left was not correct — it just had the power in its hands to destroy our foreign policy and to do the hard core propaganda that is normally the work of our foreign enemies. They caused the damage and then blamed Bush.

    Just like with Hamas and Hezbollah, our media is a leftist propaganda arm — first for the world-wide left and only second for America.

    • #22
  23. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    Man With the Axe:Alternative history is a mug’s game.

    Liberals would not have accepted this evidence as proof that the war was justified or that Bush did not lie.

    They did not care that Biden, Kerry, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and virtually every other Democrat agreed that Saddam had WMD and would use them against our troops.

    They constantly repeated that Bush lied when he claimed that the threat was imminent, when in fact he said that we can’t wait until it is imminent.

    They held to their belief in Joe Wilson’s false claim that Saddam was not seeking yellowcake in Niger, and said Bush lied when he claimed that British intelligence believed Saddam was seeking it, when it turns out that the British did believe it, and he was seeking it.

    They claimed Bush acted unilaterally when he had a large coalition, many UN resolutions, and a vote of Congress to back him up.

    There is the truth, and then there is what liberals believe.

    Very nicely stated. Thanks.

    • #23
  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    wmartin:Even if they had proclaimed the discovery of the chemical weapons from the rooftops, the public still would have turned against the Iraq War. These old weapons were nothing at all like what the Bush administration was claiming we would find.

    Conservatives, including me, were wrong about the Iraq war; the left was correct.

    Conservatives were wrong on some of the WMD issues. They were right that Saddam was ready to restart his nuclear program; the later estimates were that it would take 18 months from sanctions being reduced, which appeared likely to take place in 2003 or 2004.

    They were right on the humanitarian issues, and right to claim that the Iraqis could pull together a functioning democracy that would bring freedom and prosperity to Iraq. Some conservatives sided with the left on individual issues. Those conservatives who sided with the right only on non-nuclear WMD were wrong about Iraq, as were those leftists who took the same position.

    • #24
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    For what it’s worth, I disagree with Kevin’s claims that Rove’s policy views don’t matter. Although most of the malcontent’s claims that Rove opposes the Tea Party because he’s intrinsically hostile to it are nuts (as demonstrated by his being the single greatest source of funds for Sharon Angle etc.), he is a persuasive voice for a couple of RINO policies and that’s not crazy to care about. The categories that Kevin uses aren’t impermeable, and Rove wears multiple hats.

    3rd angle projection:Rove’s only win was Bush. Twice I suppose. Everything else he touches turns to leaden rock. I view him as a menace more than anything else. I wish Fox would put him and his stupid little white board in a closet. What are we, 4th graders? He’s a fat headed dim wit as far as I’m concerned.

    Bush won more than that with Rove. Twice for governor, twice for President. He helped get Phil Gramm into the Senate, the Second Republican ever, and William Clements in as the first Republican governor. In 2010, American Crossroads provided a good chunk of the advertising that put Kirk and Toomey into the lead in their close races.

    I’m not keen for him to expand his position much (a good chunk of Tea Party activists today view him like the left views Palin, and there comes a point when a reputation becomes unsalvageable), but in his current activist position he does a lot of good, and he’s about as experienced a guy as we have in the party. Is there anyone you’d like to point to with a better record?

    • #25
  26. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    “…every time a Republican loses an election, the Torquemadas among us begin their ritual denunciation: “We’d have won if only our guy had been pure enough, conservative enough, true-believing enough.” And then Republicans get buckets of campaign advice from people who have never had a hand in so much as a school-board election.”

    Those people are were called voters.

    • #26
  27. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    Klaatu: Given the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, voter fatigue wi the GOP after 8 years of Republican control of the White House, there was very little chance of any Republican winning in 2008.  Blaming Rove or anyone else for what happened is absurd.

    That’s a wild claim, and I disagree.  The Bush administration stopped engaging America, and the GOP went into the toilet.

    A less wild claim would be that Rove felt no need to risk anything or work too hard for the 2006 and 2008 elections as he had no dog in either fight, and wound up resigning for a better-paying job: advising losers, which by its nature never ends.

    • #27
  28. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    Klaatu:There is a world of difference between saying Rove and the White House covered something up and saying they failed to make a sufficiently large public case. You can disagree with a political decision to not publicize these findings without resorting to accusations of cover up.

    No, not really.  A duty to speak, to fight, to try, left unattended is a sin of omission, and no less a sin than commission if the landscape plainly dictates the result.

    • #28
  29. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    James Of England:

    wmartin:Even if they had proclaimed the discovery of the chemical weapons from the rooftops, the public still would have turned against the Iraq War. These old weapons were nothing at all like what the Bush administration was claiming we would find.

    Conservatives, including me, were wrong about the Iraq war; the left was correct.

    Conservatives were wrong on some of the WMD issues. They were right that Saddam was ready to restart his nuclear program; the later estimates were that it would take 18 months from sanctions being reduced, which appeared likely to take place in 2003 or 2004.

    They were right on the humanitarian issues, and right to claim that the Iraqis could pull together a functioning democracy that would bring freedom and prosperity to Iraq. Some conservatives sided with the left on individual issues. Those conservatives who sided with the right only on non-nuclear WMD were wrong about Iraq, as were those leftists who took the same position.

    That’s fair enough.  There was more than enough wrong to go around as events unfolded, but at the time things were not so clear, and not only the democrats, but several foreign intelligence services had similar conclusions and stances.

    Personally, I always viewed WMDs as an issue for making the sale to the undecided — I knew that with the unsustainable triple of no-fly zones, maritime interdiction, and sanctions working in reverse, we needed to either kill Saddam or let him go.  And I was not prepared to let him go.

    • #29
  30. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    Personally, I always viewed WMDs as an issue for making the sale to the undecided — I knew that with the unsustainable triple of no-fly zones, maritime interdiction, and sanctions working in reverse, we needed to either kill Saddam or let him go. And I was not prepared to let him go.

    I should clarify that I take that position because we were already in a belligerent status, and we had artfully tried to stop a war without destroying the opposite side, and it just wasn’t working out.

    We gave peace a chance.

    • #30
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