This deserves a banner headline —
Even better, a dancing banana —
He’s going to be spending more time with his family, children. Paul Gigot says so at WSJ —
“There’s always something that can keep you here, and as much as I’d like to be here, I’ve got to do this for the sake of my family,” Mr. Rove says. His son attends college in San Antonio, and he and his wife, Darby, plan to spend much of their time at their home in nearby Ingram, in the Texas Hill Country.
Well, certainly, a son attending college in San Antonio is a crisis that can’t be ignored. But could there be other reasons for this departure? Gigot speculates —
Mr. Rove doesn’t say, though others do, that this timing also allows him to leave on his own terms. He has survived a probe by a remorseless special counsel, and lately a subpoena barrage from Democrats for whom he is the great white whale. He shows notable forbearance in declining to comment on prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who dragged him through five grand jury appearances. He won’t even disclose his legal bills, except to quip that “every one has been paid” and that “it was worth every penny.”
What about those who say he’s leaving to avoid Congressional scrutiny? “I know they’ll say that,” he says, “But I’m not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob.” He also knows he’ll continue to be a target, even from afar, since belief in his influence over every Administration decision has become, well, faith-based.
“I’m a myth. There’s the Mark of Rove,” he says, with a bemused air. “I read about some of the things I’m supposed to have done, and I have to try not to laugh.” He says the real target is Mr. Bush, whom many Democrats have never accepted as a legitimate president and “never will.”
Is this guy a pathetic whiner, or what?
There’s also the possibility that Rove is leaving the White House so that he can sign on to another presidential campaign, as psericks speculates here at MyDD. And that would be grand with me. I think most of the electorate is heartily sick of his scorched earth style of campaigning. I very much doubt Karl has much in the way of a future career, however, except perhaps as a Fox News analyst.
Seriously, it’s seemed to me for some time that Rove was in over his head. I wrote in November 2005 —
What about Karl Rove, who has been trying to build a permanent Republican majority? Although Rove is supposed to be some kind of all-seeing evil genius, I wonder sometimes if he isn’t more of an idiot savant. He’s brilliant at doing one thing–building political power through sheer nastiness. He may not be wise enough to see the seeds of destruction he has planted.
Ron Suskind saw this back in 2003 (emphasis added) —
… people in Washington, especially Rove’s friends, are utterly petrified to talk about him.
They heard that I was writing about Karl Rove, seeking to contextualize his role as a senior adviser in the Bush White House, and they began calling, some anonymously, some not, saying that they wanted to help and leaving phone numbers. The calls from members of the White House staff were solemn, serious. Their concern was not only about politics, they said, not simply about Karl pulling the president further to the right. It went deeper; it was about this administration’s ability to focus on the substance of governing—issues like the economy and social security and education and health care—as opposed to its clear political acumen, its ability to win and enhance power. And so it seemed that each time I made an inquiry about Karl Rove, I received in return a top-to-bottom critique of the White House’s basic functions, so profound is Rove’s influence.
As I wrote a couple of days ago, that’s Rove’s biggest blind spot — his failure to understand the substance of governing. Rove built his reputation as a political genius because of his ability as a campaign manager to knock off Democratic incumbents in southern states by means of dirty and dishonest campaigning. But seems to me Rove’s “genius” was less smarts than it was ruthlessness. Rove knows neither boundaries nor scruples. He won campaigns because he was willing to ignore moral and ethical lines and fight dirtier than other (non-sociopathic) campaign managers could imagine.
(Ruthlessness can get you a long way. Most top-office corporate executives I’ve ever had to work with were not all that bright; they were just very, very self-assured and relentlessly aggressive about getting what they want. But that’s another rant.)
So his boy gets to be President, and Rove is given a free hand to run domestic policy initiatives. And he runs them like he ran his political campaigns, because that’s all he knows how to do. And after nearly seven years in the White House, the Bush Administration is floundering, and its most remarkable characteristic is that the Bushies never did get the “substance of governing” thing.
Put another way: If blustering, smearing and intimidation were governing, the Bush Administration would have been a roaring success.
But why now? And how will this impact the rest of Bush’s term in office?
I’m speculating that the investigations into the U.S. Attorney scandal are getting too close for Rove’s comfort (see Marcy Wheeler on this). Or maybe he had a falling out with the Boy King, who might be starting to notice that, um, his administration has hit some bumps. More may come to light in the next few days to clarify this.
As for the rest of Bush’s term — well, it’ll be interesting. It’s obvious that Bush is a weak and unaccomplished man who has been more or less playing the role of President while Cheney and Rove actually ran the nation (into the ground). Will someone else step into Rove’s place (where’s Karen Hughes, btw?) so the Creature has free time for bicycle rides and naps? Or will Bush start trying to do his job (and that should be jolly)? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I guess I’ll have to revise the All-Purpose White House Press Gaggle handout.
Updates: See also The Talking Dog and Obsidian Wings.
And here’s an old David Broder column from September 2006 in which the Lord High Poohbah says the media has been too mean to poor Karl.
Update2: Here’s another clue to the Rove Mystique, from John Dickerson in Slate:
Bush loyalists looking to pinpoint Rove’s role in the difference between the Texas and Washington years note that in Texas, Rove was merely a consultant to Gov. Bush. In Washington, he was physically in the White House, with his hands directly on the levers of policy-making.
That’s something I’ve wondered. So a college dropout was put in charge of U.S. domestic policy after zero experience within government. And he failed, big time.
I’d also like to point out that a great many circumstances came together to make the Rove Phenomenon possible. For example, he capitalized on the right-wing media infrastructure that was already in place long before he got to Washington. Had there been a real Washington press corps such as existed, say, 40 years ago, Rove would have had much less room to maneuver. And he served under a weak, disinterested commander in chief who was all too happy to delegate the details to Karl. He also was dealing with Republicans in Congress who were so well trained to be cogs in the VRWC machine that they didn’t stand up to him, even after they must have realized he was dragging the GOP off a cliff.