Karl Rove is calling it quits after 14 years of finessing President Bush’s political career. He told Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor, that he would leave the White House Aug. 31. Bloggers ponder Rove’s legacy and his future.
Joe Klein is stunned at Time’s Swampland: “I thought Karl would be there to turn out the lights and write naughty graffiti on the walls to greet the new administration in 2009,” he writes.
Rove has been called “Bush’s Brain,” “the architect” of the Bush presidency, and, by Bush himself, “Turd Blossom.” At National Review’s Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez considers the first of these. “By leaving, Rove could be doing his last bit of service to the president: If it’s a successful last year, the myth of ‘Bush’s brain’ may be laid to rest.” The Moderate Voice’s Joe Gandelman wonders how Bush will function: “The Bush administration is staving off a host of Congressional and other investigations into its policy and political dealings. If Rove is ‘Bush’s brain’ does his departure amid these investigations mean the administration is being politically lobotomized?”
At Dick Polman’s American Debate, the Philadelphia Inquirer columnist believes Rove could never save Bush from himself. “I know we’re all supposed to pay obeisance these days to the Cult of the Consultant, but perhaps we should remember that, in the end, a consultant is probably only as good as his client. In the end, Bush’s Brain could not supply him with a silver tounge,” he writes.
At Real Clear Politics, a former White House staffer gives an eye-witness account of life with Karl. “He was the most relentlessly upbeat person in the White House, giving counsel and encouragement to all, and showing great kindness to many of us and our families,” writes Peter Wehner, formerdeputy assistant to the president. “And of course what we all learned as well as what a tremendously strong person this policy wonk and former nerd from Utah is. He withstood pressure, unfair pressure, that would have broken lesser men.”
Stalwart conservative Michelle Malkin lambastes Gigot for not examining what she considers Rove’s failures. “Not a word here about the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies. And not a word about the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty, which will be the everlasting stain Rove leaves behind,” she writes. “Imagine how much better off the White House and the Republican Party might be now if he had, in fact, left a year ago.”
At Captain’s Quarters, Ed Morrissey fires back at Malkin: “I’d argue that in this instance, Michelle’s making the same mistake as many on the Left do about Rove. Karl Rove did not make policy – he just structured the President’s message to win as much support for Bush policy decisions as possible. I highly doubt Rove selected Harriet Miers or his immigration policy. … Bush makes the policy and the appointments, and men like Rove sell them. You can’t blame the salesman for the product.”
Many ponder Rove’s future. Joel Achenbach at Achenblog sees Rove returning to politics in some form. “[P]olitical strategists never go away. They’ve got the fight in their blood. They dream of poll numbers. They know how the electorate is trending in every congressional district in the country. To give up politics would be like giving up eating, breathing, or lying.” At Newshoggers, liberal Cernig gets more specific: “Or it may be that, as he’s returning to Texas, he has his eye on a new Texas Republican dimestore cowboy to promote. There are persistent rumors down here of Gov. Rick Perry positioning himself for a veep run,” he writes. At Pam’s House Blend, progressive Pam predicts Rove will “always be on speed dial to Bush.” “Guess he’s getting out as the Titanic he set sail is pointing nose first and sinking fast,” she writes.
Republican Jason Bonham at Race 4 2008 ponders whether having Rove as a consultant would help or harm a GOP candidate in 2008. “Let’s just hypothesize for a moment and say my favorite candidate hired him. Would I be excited? I don’t think I would. Romney is running on a ‘Reform Washington’ ticket. Mitt’s the outsider who knows that Americans have had enough of the Washington game, and the one candidate who knows how to reform a troubled ship. It would seem like rehiring the captain of the sinking ship, no matter how much of an expert, would be a PR disaster.”
Rove’s legacy gets ample attention from bloggers across the political spectrum. Rove is “one of the worst political strategists in recent times,” according to moderate Andrew Sullivan. “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.” International politics prof Daniel Drezner is of the same mind. “Karl Rove did maximize Bush’s short-run political influence. The long-term costs, however, will not be experienced until well after 2009. And my hunch is that those costs are far greater than Rove acknowledges.”