The good must have been interred with Karl Rove’s resignation letter, because there’s not a lot of love for him in blogland today, nor much respect for his reputation as a political mastermind.
National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez hopes that Bush’s political fortunes improve with Rove’s absence. “If it’s a successful last year, the myth of ‘Bush’s brain’ may be laid to rest,” she writes at The Corner.
Michelle Malkin, normally a reliable Republican cheerleader, wishes Rove hadn’t waited so long to resign. “Imagine how much better off the White House and the Republican Party might be now if he had, in fact, left a year ago,” she writes on her personal blog. Among the heresies committed by Rove, Malkin cites “the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies.” She also disapproves of what she calls “the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty, which will be the everlasting stain Rove leaves behind.”
Moving from far right to impossible-to-place-on-a-continuum on your blogosphere dial, Andrew Sullivan calls Rove “one of the worst political strategists in recent times.” Sullivan continues:
He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war - and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency. His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government has turned an entire generation off the conservative label.
And on the center-left, Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, writing at Swampland, advises Democrats to abandon the search for a liberal Rove: “A smart Democat will study Rove and do the opposite.”
Karl Rove’s reputation rests, in part, on the “Cult of the Consultant” among Washington journalists, notes Joshua Green, a senior editor at The Atlantic, in his well-timed September cover story on The Architect, headlined “The Rove Presidency.” (Though Green’s opening sentence is less well-timed than his subject: “With more than a year left in the fading Bush presidency, Karl Rove’s worst days in the White House may still lie ahead of him.”)
“A big paradox of Bush’s presidency,” Green writes, “is that Rove, who had maybe the best purely political mind in a generation and almost limitless opportunities to apply it from the very outset, managed to steer the administration toward disaster.”
For all his reputation as a campaign strategist and a genius at political tactics, Rove proved incompetent at the sort of bureaucratic politics that are required to succeed within the White House, Green suggests. He writes:
Rove’s greatest shortcoming was not in conceptualizing policies but in failing to understand the process of getting them implemented, a weakness he never seems to have recognized in himself. It’s startling that someone who gave so much thought to redirecting the powers of government evinced so little interest in understanding how it operates. Perhaps because he had never worked in government — or maybe because his standing rested upon his relationship with a single superior — he was often ineffective at bringing into being anything that required more than a presidential signature.
Rove also made at least one calamitous political judgment: He insisted that President Bush not land in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which led to the photo of Bush as he “gazed down from on high at the wreckage,” Green writes. An anonymous “Bush official” tells Green, “Karl did not want the plane to land in Louisiana.”
“A corollary to the Cult of the Consultant is the belief that winning an election -- especially a tough one you weren’t expected to win -- is proof of the ability to govern,” Green writes. “But the two are wholly distinct enterprises.”
Karl Rove tells Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, that he’s resigning from the White House “effective Aug. 31.”
Rove seems to think — or at least his comments to Gigot logically suggest that — his departure will right everything that is wrong with George W. Bush’s second term. Gigot writes:
“He will move back up in the polls,” says Mr. Rove, who interrupts my reference to Mr. Bush’s 30 percent approval rating by saying it’s heading close to “40 percent,” and “higher than Congress.”
Looking ahead, he adds, “Iraq will be in a better place” as the surge continues. Come the autumn, too, “we’ll see in the battle over FISA” — the wiretapping of foreign terrorists — “a fissure in the Democratic Party.” Also in the fall, “the budget fight will have been fought to our advantage,” helping the G.O.P. restore, through a series of presidential vetoes, its brand name on spending restraint and taxes.
As for the Democrats, “They are likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate” by the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding the White House for a third term is always difficult given the pent-up desire for change, he says, but “I think we’ve got a very good chance to do so.”
Rove is “arguably the most influential White House aide of modern times,” Gigot writes. “The president calls him to chat about politics on Sunday mornings, and they have a contest to see who can read the most books. (Mr. Rove is winning.)”
Gigot adds, “I’ve known Mr. Rove for 19 years and spoken to him hundreds of times. Yet I can’t recall a single instance where he disclosed how his views differed from Mr. Bush’s.”
And like President Bush, Rove doesn’t admit error easily: “As for what his own White House mistakes have been, Mr. Rove winces and says, ‘I’ll put my feet up in September and think about that.’”