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. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Ball Diamond Ball:

    “…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.

    Do you mean “the average voter felt like McKenna would have become governor of Washington if he’d been more conservative” or “the people who stake out the position you outline are often American citizens”? If the latter, could you outline the position you believe you are refuting?

    • #31
  2. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    Clinton gets the lion’s share of the blame for Iraq and for 9/11. When Bush 41 turned things over to him, he could have used the armistice to ratchet things up. Instead he played games with the UN and looked weak. Weakness is seen as an invitation to bullies.

    • #32
  3. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Klaatu, Bush is to blame too. But you started a thread about Rove, who was Bush’s agent, of course. You cannot defend Rove, however, by saying that Bush was the ultimate decision maker. Such logic could excuse any poor performance by a presidential (or any sort of) advisor. It’s absurd to say, “Well, yes, I  confidently gave disastrous advice that the president followed based on my recommendation, but he should have overruled me anyway. Isn’t that, like, his job?” If you poorly advise the man in charge, expect blame.

    So, let’s get back to what we know: Rove was on point enthusiastically burying this story. That makes him a total moron in my view. Bush too. And, it is completely wrong to suggest that this was just all a historical debate in 2006. There was relentlessly bad news about the war then, and the negation of primary reason for war hurt very badly. It would have been news, not an argument about history, to reveal then that significant stockpiles of chemical weapons had been discovered and were a threat to American soldiers.

    • #33
  4. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    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.

    Please give me a source on an Iraqi nuclear program that inspectors never found (as well as aerial reconnaisance, the effect of sanctions, etc) I would like to know exactly how Saddam was getting ready to start up a Manhattan Project on a shoestring budget.

    As far as freedom and prosperity, functioning democracy, etc…well, I’ll just accept that you and I are on different planets. The Iraqis are a bunch of primitive savages, and they were not worth one American life.

    • #34
  5. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    gts109:

    So, let’s get back to what we know: Rove was on point enthusiastically burying this story. That makes him a total moron in my view. Bush too. And, it is completely wrong to suggest that this was just all a historical debate in 2006. There was relentlessly bad news about the war then, and the negation of primary reason for war hurt very badly. It would have been news, not an argument about history, to reveal then that significant stockpiles of chemical weapons had been discovered and were a threat to American soldiers.

    The news that we found a bunch of old stockpiles of chemical weapons would not have done anything to change the public’s mind about Iraq. Such a picayune discovery simply could not justify the cost in troops being killed and maimed for life, when the public had been led to believe the threat from Iraq was so much more severe.

    And of course, the only reason our troops were “in danger” from these weapons is that our troops were in there in Iraq for no good reason.

    • #35
  6. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    Larry Koler:

    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.

    WMD was the only good reason for the war ( I don’t like fighting wars for missionary reasons, to bring enlightenment to the heathen). When that was shown to be false, there was no reason left to support the war, and support did indeed collapse. Exactly as it should have…

    Lots of Democrats voted for the war, of course. They were wrong, as was I.

    • #36
  7. user_5186 Inactive
    user_5186
    @LarryKoler

    wmartin: WMD was the only good reason for the war…

    I wasn’t asking what you thought — that’s obvious. I was talking about the reasons proffered by the administration and the conservatives and the Republicans and a lot of Democrats.

    The left and the media got the focus to be on WMD to the exclusion of everything else, like shooting at our planes, not living up to the armistice agreement — you know the stuff that we fought Desert Storm for.

    You are promoting a media narrative of those times. The media and the left are directly responsible for a large portion of our dead in that war. Directly responsible because propaganda is known to win and to lose wars. And make no mistake: the media blitz and continued narrative prolonged that war and killed our troops and many Iraqis.

    • #37
  8. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    There were several problems with the war on Iraq.

    1.  Iraq and Iran kept each other in check.  That is no longer true.

    2.  We Americans don’t like long, drawn-out wars.  Let the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines go in, do what they do so well, and then get out.

    3.  Nation building is not a function of the American military, no matter who thinks it is or should be.  The Marines did it well on some little islands, but no one has done it well in Iraq.

    Saddam did it by applying force whenever he deemed it necessary.   Saddam used chemical weapons to kill up to 150,000 Kurds, and wasn’t hesitant about killing other political/religious enemies, even if it was only to supply his sons’ rapacious appetites.

    I do remember reading prior to our conquest of Iraq that there were convoys of trucks leaving Iraq and arriving in Syria.  One suspects that those convoys weren’t taking foodstuffs to Syria which, it is claimed, has used chemical weapons on its populace.

    4.  We cannot go backward and undo what was done, but we can apply some real thought to what should be done now, if we should be involved, and who must pay for it.  We don’t seem to have achieved any consensus about it, but then any real attempt to identify the issues and then the consideration in part or in total hasn’t been applied.

    • #38
  9. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    gts, I do not know what advice Rove gave Bush on this matter. Do you?

    A good advisor gives his advice confidentially and publicly supports the decision regardless of its relationship to his advice.

    • #39
  10. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    Larry Koler:

    wmartin: WMD was the only good reason for the war…

    The left and the media got the focus to be on WMD to the exclusion of everything else, like shooting at our planes, not living up to the armistice agreement — you know the stuff that we fought Desert Storm for.

    Those reasons are not good enough. They do not even begin to justify the cost.

    And the administration knew that, or they would not have leaned on WMD so heavily. If WMD were not the main reason for the war,the Bushies were quite content to give the public the impression that they were.

    • #40
  11. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Yes, the Eli Lake article.

    • #41
  12. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Wmartin, I disagree with you about how this news would have been received. I think that those on the hard left would have dismissed it. But many on the left supported the war in 2003, and then changed their minds. Maybe they’d have changed back again. And, it certainly would have helped with moderates and Republicans.

    Regardless, even if it was not that well received, what is the risk of revealing that information at the time? The possibility of rehabilitating the administration’s reputation on the issue was a very big upside. Only a very big downside could justify Rove’s burying of the information. No one can articulate that downside, because it doesn’t exist.

    • #42
  13. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    The Eli Lake article states people blame Rove, I do not see any evidence to support this in the article.

    • #43
  14. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    gts109:Wmartin, I disagree with you about how this news would have been received. I think that those on the hard left would have dismissed it. But many on the left supported the war in 2003, and then changed their minds. Maybe they’d have changed back again. And, it certainly would have helped with moderates and Republicans.

    I think we just disagree about the size and import of this story. I just don’t see it as that big a deal (except the part about how our troops were exposed to the chemicals, and their health problems mishandled by the bureaucracy; none of which makes the Bush administration look particularly good). Even if this had come out in 2003, it would have been a big let-down after all the fevered speculations about Saddam getting a nuke program up and running, arming terrorists with chemical weapons, etc.

    • #44
  15. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Yeah, maybe it would have been a let down. But, it’s better than letting people think that there were no WMDs, which is now stuck in people’s heads. I just don’t get the rationale for withholding it. Even if the news turned out to be a flop, who cares? What’s the danger? If the concern is that terrorists might get ahold of the weapons, secure the weapons, and then make the announcement. That would have bolstered the case that they are actually dangerous. Not to mention that airing the existence of the weapons would have protected our soldiers and complied with our obligations to destroy chemical weapons in a safe manner. When you combine those advantages of public announcement with the potential for restoring credibility, the decision to stay mum is baffling. Maybe there’s a great explanation yet to be told. I haven’t heard it.

    As for the Eli Lake article, it quotes a number of Republicans (who worked inside and outside the Bush admin) who all agree that Rove led the charge to bury the story. They dealt with Rove on the issue at the time. I don’t know what more I can give you to show that this was Rove’s call. Until you come up with some proof that Rove was just carrying out Bush’s wishes, against Rove’s own better judgment, I think I’ve carried my burden of proof that Rove actually thought “letting sleeping dogs lie” was the best approach.

    • #45
  16. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Klaatu: This article from the Armed Forces Press Service is from June 2006. Given the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September

    Lehman Bros. collapsed in 2008.  So they had two years to get that message out.  They did bupkis.  I don’t know if Rove or Bush (who was his own man) was the light behind that brilliant decision, but if it was Rove, he deserves blame.  Bush deserves blame for listening to him.

    • #46
  17. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    “Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it,” [Rove] writes. “Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations.”

    He adds: “So, then, did Bush lie us into war? Absolutely not.” But Mr. Rove said the White House had only a “weak response” to the harmful allegation, which became “a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency.”

    “So who was responsible for the failure to respond?” he writes. “I was. I should have stepped forward, rung the warning bell and pressed for full-scale response. I didn’t. Preoccupied with the coming campaign and the pressure of the daily schedule in the West Wing, I did not see how damaging this assault was.”

    So he actually knew that they found WMD, and covered it up, and then went and wrote this?  I suspect that he might be nuts… It’s hard to reconcile those two facts any other way.

    • #47
  18. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    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.

    • #48
  19. Carey J. Inactive
    Carey J.
    @CareyJ

    Klaatu:gts, I do not know what advice Rove gave Bush on this matter.Do you?

    A good advisor gives his advice confidentially and publicly supports the decision regardless of its relationship to his advice.

    So we’re expected to assume that whatever advice Rove gave Dubya was good, and assume the bad choices were all Dubya’s fault? Damn, how do I get a job like that?

    Seriously, Rove either deserves a share of the blame for the bad stuff if he had serious influence, or he deserves scorn as a bigmouthed wannabe if he didn’t. You can’t have it both ways.

    So which is it? Incompetent mastermind, or blowhard poser?

    • #49
  20. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    Carey J.:

    Klaatu:gts, I do not know what advice Rove gave Bush on this matter.Do you?

    A good advisor gives his advice confidentially and publicly supports the decision regardless of its relationship to his advice.

    So we’re expected to assume that whatever advice Rove gave Dubya was good, and assume the bad choices were all Dubya’s fault? Damn, how do I get a job like that?

    Seriously, Rove either deserves a share of the blame for the bad stuff if he had serious influence, or he deserves scorn as a bigmouthed wannabe if he didn’t. You can’t have it both ways.

    So which is it? Incompetent mastermind, or blowhard poser?

    No, we are not expected to assume anything.

    • #50
  21. calvincoolidg@gmail.com Inactive
    calvincoolidg@gmail.com
    @CalvinCoolidg

    Karl Rove represents Karl Rove. His main mission in life is to preserve the status quo in government so that he can remain relevant. The reason the Left hates him is because he’s not a Democrat. The reason the Right hates him is because he uses Left wing tactics to crush any opposition to his agenda in order to keep himself relevant to Republican politicians that share his view. What exactly is the big question in this discussion? He revealed himself a long time ago. I think I posted on this last week: http://ricochet.com/turd-blossom/

    • #51
  22. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    Calvin Coolidg: The reason the Left hates him is because he’s not a Democrat. The reason the Right hates him is because he uses Left wing tactics to crush any opposition to his agenda in order to keep himself relevant to Republican politicians that share his view.

    The reason I hate him is that he has been trying to shove amnesty for illegals down our throats since the moment George W Bush took the oath of office in January, 2001.

    • #52
  23. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    wmartin: Please give me a source on an Iraqi nuclear program that inspectors never found (as well as aerial reconnaisance, the effect of sanctions, etc) I would like to know exactly how Saddam was getting ready to start up a Manhattan Project on a shoestring budget.

    The Iraq Survey Group would be a good place to start, although not for what you’re asking. I didn’t claim that Saddam would have been ready to start a Manhattan project on a shoestring budget. His budget would not have been shoestring, and achieving the dizzying heights of 1945 technology became cheaper as time moved on.

    wmartin: As far as freedom and prosperity, functioning democracy, etc…well, I’ll just accept that you and I are on different planets. The Iraqis are a bunch of primitive savages, and they were not worth one American life.

    Do you believe that, say, Ukraine is? I’m not sure how to calibrate your remarks. Obviously, it should go without saying that the ending of Saddam’s dominion is still more likely to saved American lives than cost them; you don’t need a very high chance of an Iraqi nuclear development before 4k stops being such a high number, just as the people who argue that we can’t afford to have troops in Iraq require some creativity to maintain that argument in light of the costs of withdrawing them.

    • #53
  24. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Carey J.:

    Klaatu:

    Seriously, Rove either deserves a share of the blame for the bad stuff if he had serious influence, or he deserves scorn as a bigmouthed wannabe if he didn’t. You can’t have it both ways.

    So which is it? Incompetent mastermind, or blowhard poser?

    Are those really the only options? I agree with Klaatu that we don’t know where he was on this particular issue, but even if he was wrong on it, as I believe he has been on immigration, do those mistakes mean that  he was incompetent? Can you identify a campaign manager that you believe has been particularly competent?

    Calvin Coolidg:Karl Rove represents Karl Rove. His main mission in life is to preserve the status quo in government so that he can remain relevant. The reason the Left hates him is because he’s not a Democrat. The reason the Right hates him is because he uses Left wing tactics to crush any opposition to his agenda in order to keep himself relevant to Republican politicians that share his view. What exactly is the big question in this discussion? He revealed himself a long time ago. I think I posted on this last week: http://ricochet.com/turd-blossom/

    If the status quo changed, how would that make him less relevant? It sounds as if you’re saying he opposes people like Sharon Angle, for whom he was the chief fundraiser. The piece you link to suggests that you disagree with him about the WMD messaging, but does not seem to suggest that he was suppressing the message in order to crush opposition to his agenda. Do you believe that this was the case? Could you outline the mechanism?

    Do you accept that there are people who are not Democrats who are less objected to by Democrats?

    • #54
  25. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    wmartin:

    Calvin Coolidg: The reason the Left hates him is because he’s not a Democrat. The reason the Right hates him is because he uses Left wing tactics to crush any opposition to his agenda in order to keep himself relevant to Republican politicians that share his view.

    The reason I hate him is that he has been trying to shove amnesty for illegals down our throats since the moment George W Bush took the oath of office in January, 2001.

    Didn’t you support an amnesty supporting candidate in the 2012 primaries? Why did disagreement there not lead even to a loss of support, but disagreement with Rove leads not only to loss of support, but to active hatred? Does our disagreement over the value of an Iraqi free press (and probably other issues) lead you to hate me?

    • #55
  26. gts109 Inactive
    gts109
    @gts109

    Are you kidding me, James of England? We have Rove himself in the NY Times (as quoted by Tuck above), plus a host of uncontradicted Republican sources (from the Eli Lake article) saying that burying the WMD thing was Rove’s call. You have no proof the other way, yet you’re insisting that this wasn’t Rove’s doing. WHATEVER.

    • #56
  27. virgil15marlow@yahoo.com Member
    virgil15marlow@yahoo.com
    @Manny

    My two cents.  There are positives and negatives to the things Rove has done or advocated, but who doesn’t have both positives and negatives when you’re in the public spotlight?  On balance Rove has helped the GOP over the last two decades.  He’s a great strategist and someone who modulates when our side goes overboard.  And yes, we do go overboard sometimes.

    • #57
  28. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Random Thought:

    http://www.adultswim.com/videos/american-dad/meet-karl-rove/

    • #58
  29. wmartin Member
    wmartin
    @

    James Of England:Didn’t you support an amnesty supporting candidate in the 2012 primaries? Why did disagreement there not lead even to a loss of support, but disagreement with Rove leads not only to loss of support, but to active hatred? Does our disagreement over the value of an Iraqi free press (and probably other issues) lead you to hate me?

    I supported Newt Gingrich? As I recall, I was the 2nd most fervent Romney supporter on ricochet, after yourself. I was quite derisive and mocking toward Gingrich supporters, much more than I really should have been.

    I don’t care about the Iraqi people or what happens to them, so probably no disagreement about that subject could cause me to hate anyone. I regard Amnesty and continued third world immigration as being uniquely harmful to this country and its future, so it is a special case to me.

    • #59
  30. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Let’s give credit and assign blame for the Bush administration to where it belongs: George W. Bush. I’m content to leave the “Bush’s Brain” stuff to the Left.

    • #60
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