Gen X at 40

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Hans -

The problem is the blending of the tactics of politics with the content of politics and the mob's -- I mean the public's -- inability to distinguish between the two. In other words, while I detest Karl's approach and accomplishments, its hard to argue with the results i.e. the miraculous election and re-election of George W. Bush.

David -

Interesting topic. The issue with Rove is that most claims you here about him just seem to be made up -- kind of a tabula rasa for the "intelligent evil acts" of the Bush administration, that obviously (so it is said) Bush is too stupid to think up himself.

David -

Note this on page 2. Federal government employees increased during the Mulrooney era; was cut during the first half of the Chretien regime but was all but restored by 2002.

Chris Taylor -

I don't see how this could break on anything other than ideological and sectarian lines. If Karl had been the wunderkind who kept Al Gore in the White House and the Democrats in control of Congress, then his hosannas would be sung from many media quarters—which are a little more sour on the man right now.

I see him as the American Warren Kinsella—a gifted but flawed political operator who also has no problem heaving the most malodorous sewage to keep the opposition in Opposition. They are the kind of fellas who see politics as "sport"—keeping their guy elected for as long as possible—as opposed to the exercise of sound stewardship and statesmanship over several generations. They contribute to the marginalisation of politics and the perpetually low esteem the public holds for their masters.

I don't know if I would characterise it as evil so much as incredibly myopic and witless.

Alan -

<i>"I don't see how this could break on anything other than ideological and sectarian lines....</i><p>I do see your point but that is my earnest and naive point with these group projects. Each comment maker should present a list of pros and cons and <i>then</i> set out their conclusions.

gary -

This does not add much to the discussion, and I know White House staff comes and goes, but some might say the rats are deserting the sinking ship.

David -

Politics is both things that Chris is talking too -- it is a game to keep your side in power AND it's supposed to be about doing the right thing for your country/province/state/city/burb/PTA. This is inherently contradictory, but much of life is like that. Karl Rove can be evaluated individually on both sides of this equation. Gary thinks the "rats" are "deserting" the "sinking ship" but the fact is Bush's term in closing in 16 odd months time or whatever, so certainly the last part of the analogy doesn't make sense. In terms of policy, well, most people are unhappy with this and that though you note a clear lack ... especially from the donkey side of the equation ... of formulating and sticking to an opposing plan of any sort. The right side doesn't like Bush for increasing the size of government, spending on stuff like no child left behind, the lack of immigration controls w. Mexico etc (and believe that these are mad for the country) but despite opposition from the left, one gets the impression it's because the wrong team is implementing the policy, not the policy itself.

Chris Taylor -

If the Twenty-Second Amendment weren't a major factor, I might be inclined to agree. But since no one from this administration is running for President in 2008, why would a political strategist specialising in election mudslinging concentrate his energies on a team that can't utilise his core competency?

gary -

You gentlemen certainly know how to run an intellectual discussion, and I give you credit for your intelligence, knowledge, and class, but we here on the left find the image of rats and sinking ship very amusing. Rove looks somewhat rodentlike, you could say.
OK, I have contributed very little, carry on, please...

Alan -

I think, though, that the odd thing is not the deserting but the timing. Why not stick it through unless he has lost internal sway?

cm -

I was surprised by the 'spend time with family' aspect. I didn't even know he was married. Americablog had previously floated rumours that perhaps he wasn't the marrying type.

David -

Assumably the way it's going to go is the way it's going to go in the States. Rove probably has other plans he wants to get on to (bwah hah ha), or be out of the news for other opportunities to come his way.

Alan -

That is likely. He could well be going to run another campaign. I've seen West Wing. I know how these things go.

gary -

You know, there was a little problem a year ago, which I checked wiki* to confirm, where some were calling for Rove's resignation. He was moved to a different job at the White House, and the question was and is, despite being a trusted presidential advisor, is he being squeezed out the door, slowly and gently?

*"Another is the 2006 announcement that planned terrorist attacks had been thwarted, which was made soon after the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program was discovered. Rove was reassigned from his policy development role to one focusing on strategic and tactical planning in April 2006, the same month that Joshua Bolten replaced Andrew Card as White House Chief of Staff.[31]"

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

But then again, as we are reminded in comments above, he is a political strategist, AND with a large number of interesting contests in the house, senate and oh yeah, White House, is he off to help the Republicans regain and or retain their grip on Washington???

Gorthos -

I heard today that he left now because if he didn't leave before labour day (whoops, LabOr day) he would have to remain in the post till the next election and not having another election to win (i.e. none of the other candidates could or perhaps would hire him) he'd be out of a job on Nov (whatever teh election day is in the US). i.e. get now while the gettin' is good.

Personally, I may not like who he worked for (the Star Chamber and Cancer man from x-files come to mind) but he did do a good job, whether you like him or not. If I was a corporation owner, I'd hire him in a snap. I'd just keep an eye on the cookie jar is all)..

David -

Why don't you spell out what you are saying Gary, about his problems a year ago. Nothing particular comes to mind. Group rules and all, you know?

Alan -

While I think David's call for clarity is perfectly proper, do the rules not say that we cannot be mean to each other. We can be mean to public figures if it is either truthful or entertaining, no? Have I contradicted myself...again?

David -

No, I don't mean the mean part ;-) I was more referring to since this is a group project, we should post the information we're referring to (i.e. to build the project), rather than sending each other off on treasure hunts to figure out what we're really on about.

Alan -

Yes, I think that is good. An allusion can be an insinuation without illustration. Yet, if there is supporting material, we would leave disagreement of the implications to one observation. For example, some see the lack of charges made against...oh, say...public officials or baseball players as proof that an allegation is not true. There is a difference between evidence and truth.

David -

Right, but this is particularly true/applicable in the case of Rove: he's a lightning rod for accusations, but they're mostly unsticky. I remember a lot of similar things in the Clinton era, going to opposite political direction with accusations of rapes and hitmen wacking opponents, etc.;

Alan -

But aren't the categories of accusations different. Clinton suffered allegations exterior to his office while Rove's are internal. The gadfly as opposed to the machiavellian. As a result, I do not care what one does in their private life but improper use of office is always interesting. And the relative stickiness may also speak to control.

Alan -

My use of gadfly is quite wrong. I should have said...something else.

Chris Taylor -

<i>But aren't the categories of accusations different. Clinton suffered allegations exterior to his office while Rove's are internal.</i>

Not that I want to re-fight the last war or anything... If you're talking about Whitewater, yeah. If you're talking about the Lewinsky hummer, then no. That happened to the Chief Executive and a subordinate in a government office (and not the residential part of the House, either). Ask yourself if you or your boss could get away with the same thing in your workplace and not attract a few termination notices along the way.

I think it was very cleverly sold as being "external to the office" but if you're getting your jollies on company time (<i>and</i> premises), don't be surprised if someone up the chain decides it's not so external after all.

I can't find the news report now, but 3-4 years ago a guy in a top-tier financial firm here in Toronto got axed for a hilarious chain of events. He had a drug problem, got high, and went and hired a prostitute. Then he and the streetwalker came back to his office and did the deed. Then the following week, the streetwalker showed up at the office and demanded hush money, which he refused to pay. So she blabbed to his boss, and he got fired.

He later sued (unsuccessfully) to get his job back, because he felt that his employer should have referred him to its drug/alcohol abuse program instead of just cashiering him.

Wish I could find that article now because it was funny as hell.

Alan -

I would have actually reversed those. Whitewater might have indicated an interest which had a continuing hook on the impariality of the President, maybe. I would not care a hoot about Monica. Ask the CEO or any company he has guaranteed rule over for the next four or eight years if he ever used the casting couch. Hone of your business is the answer. Even if Lewinski was a Republican plant, she was only furthering the interests of bi=partisanship.

Chris Taylor -

This is where different worlds collide. =)

You're correct, it's not about Monica. It's about preserving the independence and respect of the chain of command. Anybody who's spent time in uniform knows it's bad news to 1) have senior and junior ranks fraternise romantically and 2) dishonour your command or yourself through discreditable conduct.

Ontario lawyers have the same sort of injunction if I'm not mistaken, specifically Rule 1.02 of the LSUC <i>Rules of Professional Conduct</i>, which defines "professional misconduct" and "conduct unbecoming". Conduct unbecoming being a lawyer's personal/private acts that might discredit the legal profession. Presumably the Arkansas Bar Association has something similar, which is why Monicagate, and not Whitewater, resulted in his license to practice getting pulled for five years.

Yes he was the President, but he was a lawyer first. And he agreed to certain oaths and a standard of conduct that, one would have hoped, was not to be taken lightly. That's part of what being a lawyer entails, right?

gary -

I am back. David, I think I made the point clearly enough up there, and backed it up. He was under scrutiny, there were some who thought he should resign, he took or was offered a different job.

But specifically, in 2006 he was, according to CNN
'Even Bush officials in charge of trying to minimize the impact of Rove's diminished new role concede it's hard to mask the reality that the move was a demotion.' http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/04/20/rove.move/

because of
'Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, who leads the Senate Democratic campaign effort, said the Bush administration has "never separated politics from policy and that's been one of the reasons for its undoing. Late is better than never but the key for the White House will be getting a new person in charge of policy independent from Karl Rove who understands that policy is not simply politics."' from CNN http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/04/19/mcclellan/index.html

and further according to Time http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1185015,00.html?cnn=yes
'In a second announcement that hit like an earthquake internally, the White House said that wunderkind Joel Kaplan will be Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, taking over some day-to-day non-political turf that once had been the province of his now-fellow Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, who retains the title of senior adviser. '

Some might have noticed this information and thought Rove was demoted, as CNN suggests, because people in the White House were unhappy with his work. And if the result of the 2006 election is counted, it is hard not to see that some in the administration may have felt he had outlived his usefullness.
The Washington Post takes a pretty broad-based look at his career
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2005/04/11/LI2005041100879.html

gary -

Is that spelled out well enough for you David? I could go on. I am not sure what the group rules are when it comes to documenting the same point a million times.

Alan -

<i>...bad news to 1) have senior and junior ranks fraternise romantically and 2) dishonour your command or yourself through discreditable conduct...</i><p>Bad news but trivial in the big picture. You are importing standards from one area of activity (the military) to another (politics). And I do not particularly know or care why the bar removed him in hindsight from this distance but it was after the political show trial so is of little value.<p>The real point, however, to return to it is that accusations against Rove are related to conduct while those of Clinton are more of character. Rove only was slagged for twisting and over politicizing the entire government. Clinton was reprimanded for being less than hoped as an individual but not really frigging with the system.

Iain McLeod -

As Spinal Tap once noted, there is a thin line between genius and stupidity.

Karl Rove's reputation as a political genius stems largely from the two Bush presidential victories. But he very nearly blew both those elections. In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote despite leading virtually every poll (albeit by a few points) in the final days of the campaign. In 2004, Bush came within one state (Ohio) of losing the presidency to a weak Democratic candidate despite holding a sizeable lead in the popular vote. Rove's strategy of appealing to "the base" and thumbing his nose at everyone else delivered staggering margins of victory to Bush in states like Utah and Oklahoma, where he was never in any danger of losing. If Kerry had won one more decent-sized state and the White House in 2004, Rove would be remembered for the greatest blunder in U.S. political history.

Ah well ... if "ifs" and "buts" were skiffs and boats, we'd all go sailing.

Jay Currie -

Absent the Brain of Pooh I am anticipating a, to coin a phrase, Bush surge.

The problem with Karl, as David Frrum points out in his commentary, is he was an elections guy, not a governing guy. If you want to win elections you need to create cleavages of the non-Monica kind. "Gay marriage, Yo, fundies, we're agin it." That sort of thing. Drive the coasties, NPR and the NYT (and Andrew Sullivan) insane but play the base hard. And Karl was brilliant at that sort of cleverly divisive politics.

Problem is that when you are the President the objective is to unite rather than to cleave the nation. I am not sure W is bright enough to understand that, just as I thing Clinton I was too busy cleaving unto others to get it, but W might just stumble through now that one half of his brain has been resected.

Knowing how to win elections and knowing how to govern, as our rural overlords are proving here in the snowy north, are two only barely related things. Intelligent politicians keep the Roves and the, and I hesitate to mention the lying dweeb in the same sentence, Kinsellas of the world in kennels between elections. Let lose the dogs of war is all very well; but lock'em up in peace time.

The shots the NYT takes at Rove's failure to show up to whichever kangaroo court the US Senate has set up this week shows the NYT's remarkable failure to grasp the notion of separation of powers. The President, unless impeached, is not obliged to testify to the Congress. From which, without a great deal of legal stretch, the President's men (and women) are not obliged to either unless they want something which only the Congress can grant. The Executive, under the United States Constitution, does not answer to the Congress; rather it is co-equal to it in its own jurisdictional sphere.

As an attack dog Rove has few equals in the sorry annals of American electoral politics; as a policy adviser the man was a goof. And, worse, he was a goof with a nasty agenda.

Now, as to the Bush surge: without Rove W is going to have to rely on his own instincts which, assuming that Cheney has not entirely subverted them, are largely decent if clueless. (And cluelessness is no barrier to success as Ford, Carter and Reagan proved over and over.) If Bush goes with his instincts and the guidance of Poppy, Babs and Laura it is just possible that he'll climb out of the basement. He'll never be a Roosevelt or a Reagan but he might rise to the level of a Truman. You will remember that the Korean war was not exactly a walk in the park for Harry but history has treated him rather kindly.

Having a poll in the field is not at all the same as trying to figure out what is best for the nation: without Rove, W is going to have to go with the second option. It could hardly work worse.

David -

Trust me when I say gary, that I had no idea what you are talking about -- thanks for the links. I guess it wasn't big news up here.

Jay Currie -

Looks like the old snake head agrees with me to a degree.

Alan -

I second David, Gary. I had a sense of his demotion but only because I listen to NCPR. In Canada it is the sort of detail that never makes our news. It is so unfair that you are so well acquainted with our Dalton McGuinty.

gary -

I have a well-deserved reputation for sloppy blather about vague points, and David, you forced me to replay the facts for myself and this series of comments. That is fair.
It has been stated above by commenters that Rove's strength has been election strategy, and these articles make it clear that he was being pointed in that direction prior to the November election.
At that time, and others, there has been talk of investigating his use of information and tactics, and the point is he hasn't been indicted for anything, but perhaps he has outlived his usefulness to this administration, and hopes to catch the next boat.

David -

This illuminates the point for me. I think it's fair to say that Rove will be remembered as a good/excellent election winner. I don't think this is true, btw: Bush was running against weaklings, especially that last guy, what's his name. But that's the way the history cookie crumbles. Churchill wouldn't have been remembered either if he was fighting inflation in the 1970s.

So this leads to the issue of policy, which bifurcates to domestic and international. Even if this mesophase of the Iraq war goes well, the credit will (rightfully) go elsewhere. It's fair to say the "occupation phase" was a disaster, though I expect we all have different answers for that, but my understanding is that Rove's fingerprints are all over that. Domestically, Bush has alienated all the hard-core base with Rovian policies -- let's phase when you lost Michelle Malkin, you're only left with the superhardcore. So, not particular good at day-to-day operations, making your leader look bad, demoted from doing interesting stuff (as per gary's links), and not exercising core competency of winning elections. It's time to spend time with the family.

It's good to note that American elections are awash w. money. A man like Rove, in a couple of years, could be pulling down major dough advising Republicans at the state and federal level how to win elections. It's not like there's a lot of money, in the big scheme of things, in the white house. Al Gore got rich (big time) after leaving the white house, not during it.

gr -

Leaving the White House also seems to relate to an expanding waistline.

I wonder if Alan has an anti-Gorthos filter going on? The fellow has been unusally quiet here lately.

Alan -

Wow! Is that available? ;-) <p>I suspect his new job, though, is keepng his nose to the grindstone. He certainly has not launched The Golden Sombrero.