Karl Rove has resigned and is to leave the White House on August 31. The reason: he wants to
spend time with his family have his hands free, to be out of the spotlight while working – mercenary-style – for whoever gets nominated as the GOP candidate in 2008. That, or help the GOP’s Congressional campaign in the same year. Because Rove’s wife knows that her husband has blood type P running to his veins, and he can’t leave it alone.
There are a great many anecdotes about Rove. He’s been at it for about 35 years and that kind of leaves a trail in history, whether he likes it or not. But that’s the thing with Rove: it’s not what you like or not, it’s what will stick in the voters’ minds that is important. That has always been his shtick. Like that time, way back, when he was competing with another politico to become the campaign chair of a local Republican in a state election in Texas. Rove had no qualms about spreading all sorts of rumours about his counterpart, such as him being a paedophile. Rove probably knew that later, much later someone in his circle would start talking to someone else about it, and that it would come out. But Rove didn’t mind; at the time, leaking the obviously false rumour worked. His competitor withdrew from the race and Rove became the Republican’s campaign leader. The election was lost, by the way, but Rove’s modus operandi never changed.
All that matters to people like Rove is the end goal. Like in a military campaign (and even though he has never served), Rove will employ any means necessary to get the troops at their objective. And whether you like it or not, he has succeeded more often than not, and that’s saying something. So is Karl Rove the Superman of politics, the True Architect (hark back to ‘The Architect’ from The Matrix, folks!), the Mephisto of All Mephistos? No, that he is not.
The 1994-2000 years were the years of James Carville and Paul Begala, two men who were instrumental in helping Bill Clinton become president. Even after Carville moved on, there was still this aura of invincibility surrounding him – but all you needed was to talk to him to know that he never considered himself an ‘architect’, or even a big-thinking strategist. Smart, yes. A good tactician – absolutely. But not the man. No, that was always Bill Clinton himself; he laid down the strategy and had the guts to hire the Ragin’ Cajun. But where is Carville now? He’s a regular on various TV talkshows, he has written a lot of stuff and sure enough, he sometimes can’t help himself and gets dragged into this or that group or committee. He doesn’t even mind answering the phone every now and then and then give it straight to whoever is on the phone. (Unless it helps his wife’s friends, that is.)
But has Carville always gotten it right? No, and he’ll readily admit it. That is probably the big difference between him and Rove: whereas Carville will quite easily come forward and tick off the errors he’s made, Rove says that he’ll have to think about the errors he made – and you’ll probably never hear them. Because admitting errors is a sign of weakness. Another difference is that when Carville doesn’t think much of a candidate he’s asked about, he will respectfully and in a neutral fashion comment on that candidate, but will simply stay as far away from said candidate as he can, without letting anybody in on the fact that he is not supporting that candidate. Rove, on the other hand, will talk about a candidate he doesn’t have faith in with equal respect, but will do everything he can to have the man or woman stabbed in the back, taken out behind the scenes, to replace the candidate with someone who can win.
Of course, the Screaming Left is already vilifying him (again, I might add) for all the ‘mistakes in judgment’ Rove has made through the years. “Rove thinks he’s such a political superman, he thinks he’s invincible. Well, in 2006 he said that the Republicans would hold on to the House and the Senate, and look what happened…! Haha!!!”
Please. Rove never described himself as a ‘superman’ or ‘the great architect’, or whatever. If he ever had such thoughts, he’d save them for those moments in the bathroom in the mornings – the usual, cheerful gringrown men sometimes flash at the mirror while shaving and thinking about the things they’ve done well. But he would never voice them, because in politics, everything is perception, and expectation comes second. Therefore, actually saying that you are the ‘Superman of Politics’ raises expectations. The higher you set your goals, the bigger the fall if you don’t achieve them.
No, the ‘superpolitico’-thing was stamped on Rove’s forehead not by himself, but by the Screaming Left. You know who I mean – the DailyKos, ThinkProgress.org and so many, many other pundit outlets. (I’m not going to dignify them as ‘media’ outlets, like I would never dignify the same people on the other end of the spectrum, like Powerline and Michelle Malkin and other wilfully blind retards.) And now that we’re on that subject, dear Screaming Left: what could Rove have said when that journalist asked him about how he saw the Congressional elections of 2008? What do you think would have happened if he had said, “oh shiyat, we’re going to lose man, really – big time, hands down. It’s over, the GOP folks over at the Capitol had better start packing”? Imagine the chief political advisor of the GOP’s political leader – the President – saying that ahead of an election. Get real.
In politics, and thus Rove’s World, the war is never over until the last room in the last bunker has been conquered by the enemy, and even then there’s always a possibility of organising a guerilla. Of course Rove knew that he could not say anything else for a variety of sound reasons, and he knew full well that the GOP was going to lose Congress. He had is hands on all the polls, focus group research, heck – he could probably punch up the most minute details from a GOP volunteer’s PDA in Blackhole, Montana. And he also knew that after that lost election, and his ‘prediction’, the Screaming Left would ridicule him, overjoyed that the Big Kahuna had it wrong. And Rove shrugged and moved on.
But moved on where? Well, the next battle of course – Campaign 2008. He’s ready for it. He’s going to relax a bit and write his memoirs, he’ll get a new BlackBerry from the GOP and stay in touch, and when the GOP send out an email after his memoirs are completed, he’ll be back at their HQ. Only this time he will be working like he always has, and when he was probably most succesful: outside the limelight, stealthily assessing which units can be placed where to achieve the maximum advantage over the enemy on the battlefield, and maybe even helping the GOP to further organise the party’s election infrastructure.
Napoleon Bonaparte always said that a succesful military leader must always change his tactics every 10 years, because enemies learn of their mistakes, thus learning to adapt to the succesful strategy and finally concocting their own succesful counter-strategies. Rove is probably comparable to Napoleon in that he, too, knew that the strategy he’s always used could not be used indefinitely; but like Napoleon, he failed to heed his own advice.
As an admirer of succesful political strategists in general, I’ll be looking to see if Karl Rove will be able to come up with new strategies and tricks, or if he truly is a one-trick pony. If turns out to be just that, Mr Clinton will still be leading the pack on my list. Sorry, Karl 😛
Communicatiestrateeg en schrijver van het boek ‘Megafoonpolitiek‘. Op Twitter te vinden als @kajleers. Politiek bewust, voormalig financieel-economisch journalist, muziekmaker, professionele kletskous, schrijver. Geeft ook social media-trainingen, denkt graag met je mee over communicatiestrategie. En ja, content is en blijft King.