August 14, 2007
The Stains of Karl Rove Won’t Scrub Away Easily
in the end, it ended not with a frog march, but with a simple
Karl Rove’s Monday morning resignation meant the end of
one of the most controversial tenures of the last 20 years, no less so
because he was neither elected nor appointed to a high position.
Among progressives, Rove was the dark overlord of dirty tricks, a man
with an uncanny ability to win elections while destroying reputations.
Or he was an overrated, mediocre operative who squandered the political
capital of the 2004 election by playing games straight out of Lee
Atwater’s bag of dirty tricks, and who failed to achieve his objective
of a permanent Republican majority.
conservatives, he was a man who continuously gave fits to Democrats, a
man whose mere presence could prompt unhinged denunciations and talk of
the end, his departure came when the screaming for his head – which was
never below a dull roar – had died to its lowest ebb in months. It was
an announcement that played to his political foes’ darkest beliefs –
that Rove’s decision-making was first and foremost based on what made
life more difficult for the nation’s progressives.
While liberal pundits and activists fumed, Democratic lawmakers said
investigations into Rove’s activities would continue, leaving open the
possibility that leftists might get their wish and see him dragged off
to jail. But, it was a hollow promise, one that felt like it was made by
a fisherman standing onshore promising that some day he’d reel in the
big one that got away.
excuse given for his departure – to spend more time with his family –
was so mundane as to be nearly un-Rove-like in its quality, almost
inappropriate. One expected his fate to go to the wire – where the
nation would hold its breath on that last-minute pardon so that he could
ride out of D.C., his head held high – a final insult to those who
Rove, who’d come in with the reputation of a boy genius when it came to
politics, was leaving like just another schmoe who’d tired of Beltway
Rove’s tenure saw the rise of his boss, George W. Bush, from an
unpopular president headed for one term to record high numbers after
Sept. 11, and then right back down as first he lost the nation’s
confidence and then its trust. Rove cheerfully predicted victory for the
president, that his popularity was about to turn around – a statement
reminiscent of the promises by his boss on progress in Iraq.
came to Washington D.C. with his long-time friend, the personification
of the Mayberry Machiavellis, who made it their mission to give the
Republican Party a near-permanent control, and they took seriously
Grover Norquist’s words that bipartisan cooperation is a form of date
rape. They placed all their chips on victory, and shredded the last
strands of bipartisan cooperation in a scorched Earth campaign against
the Democratic Party.
Their decline started when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore and the Ninth
Ward drowned while the president cut birthday cake and played guitar on
the West Coast; and finally crashed and burned when Iraq proved to be a
tougher nut to crack than the Electoral College. In the last days of
2006, the near-permanent Republican majority had became Democratic
majorities in both houses of Congress and we had a president whose
popularity wallowed at levels not seen before or since Nixon resigned in
legacy isn’t what he failed to achieve politically, however, but as the
face of the administration he served. Rove stands as the personification
of this – the manipulation through terror-threat warnings, the
appointment of lackeys whose sole qualification was passing a political
litmus test and the politicization of federal agencies from the Fish and
Wildlife Service to the U.S. Surgeon General. They were the face of
putting the good of the party before the common good, and they played
cynical politics. The nation’s people responded by becoming even less
trusting of politicians, and now instinctively assume that every time an
elected official says something that he’s trying to play the American
people like a gang of rubes.
Once people lose
trust in something, it requires hard work and diligence to restore. Karl
Rove might leave Washington on his own steam, and might never be hauled
off to jail for committing a crime, but the stain he left behind will
take a long time and great effort to scrub away.
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