Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Riding off into the political sunset

Their friendship goes back to when the father was president and he was asked to drop off a set of car keys for his son, home on break from college. For more than 10 years, these two have been joined at the hip politically and ideologically. They also forged a close friendship.

Karl Rove is riding off into the political sunset, after being, arguably, the brains of the Republican Party for the past decade and possibly longer. Certainly, Rove was the man behind the curtain, the veritable Wizard of Oz, orchestrating the political strategies and machinations of a party that rolled over Democrats with ease.

Not in modern memory has a political operative yielded the power and successfully waged ideological warfare like Rove. During the reign of George W. Bush, there have been few, if any, more controversial and polarizing Republicans than Rove.

The Rove/Bush team first teamed up during George W’s unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, in 1978. Bush, the younger, then just graduated from Harvard Business School, was finding his way, politically. He lost to Kent Hance by 6,000 votes and off he went to Harken Energy, to try his hand (unsuccessfully) in the oil business.

In 1993, Rove became Bush 43’s advisor, on his first run for governor of Texas. Utilizing push polls and other controversial tactics, such as implying that her administration was riddled with homosexuality, Rove helped engineer the Bush upset of Democratic incumbent, Ann Richards. The Rove/Bush juggernaut was just getting warmed up.

In 1998, Rove was in the advisors seat, as Dubya won reelection as Texas governor.

Come 2000, it was Rove at the controls, running the Bush campaign for president. During the bitterly contested Republican primary, in South Carolina, it was alleged that Rove was behind the racist innuendo and push polling conducted against major Bush rival, John McCain. Utilizing the question, “Would you be more likely, or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he fathered an illegitimate black child?” There were also insinuations against McCain that he ratted out his fellow prisoners of war, while in captivity in Hanoi. Rove, if nothing else, was the master of these kind of slash and burn tactics and they served the strengthening Bush machine very well. Later, it was Rove who was the ringleader of the Republican mobilization on the ground in Florida, overseeing the recount in this hotly contested race between Bush and Al Gore. For his efforts and loyalty, Rove became Bush 43’s senior advisor.

Rove’s quest for power, however, may have been his ultimate undoing. While the damage from his political wake will be hard to undo and there are some who argue that it may be nearly impossible, Rove overreached his role in 2003, when it is alleged that he leaked the identity of CIA employee, Valarie Plame. While never substantiated, the modus operandi of “leak and run” fit Rove like a glove.

By 2006, the Rove political magic seemed to have left his fingers, when Democrats won control of both houses, despite his insistence that his insider polling claimed otherwise. With this defeat, Republicans began carping about Rove and whether his role was still needed. Being political animals first, many, particularly those with presidential aspirations were ready to throw Rove under the bus, eager to distance themselves from the Bush presidency and the growing whiff of scandal and incompetency that had attached itself to the Bush/Rove backside, like a pesky boil.

President Bush, loyal to a fault, resisted calls to fire Rove. Yesterday, Rove himself decided it was time to go and in an interview published in the Wall Street Journal, announced he was resigning, effective August 31.

Rove plans to return to Texas, spend time with his family and he intimates that he’ll possibly write a book. He’ll certainly have no shortage of material for such a book.

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