Monday, August 13, 2007
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Karl Rove's legacy
Judging Rove's legacy is a bit different than other policy principals. With someone like a Colin Powell or a Donald Rumsfeld, the question is whether they advocated and implemented worthwhile policies. With Rove, there needs to be an additional question: did his advice provide Bush with the political capital necessary to implement the policies Bush wanted?
Paul Gigot argues in the Wall Street Journal that Rove deserves a lot of credit on this metric. Of course, Rove agrees with this:
Mr. Rove's political influence has been historic, notwithstanding the rout of 2006. His crucial insight in 2000 was recognizing that Mr. Bush had to be both an alternative to Bill Clinton's scandalous behavior and "a different kind of Republican." In 2002, the president's party gained seats in both the House and Senate in a first midterm election for the first time since 1934.I have a different take: 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.
In many ways, this boils down to just mow much power one places in the tyranny of the status quo in politics. It is far more difficult to change policy from its current equilibrium thanb most commentators realize. The question is whether Rove's actions will lead to equal counter-reactions. My hunch is yes, but Karl Rovbe does this for a living... whereas I just teach it.
[Whoa.... earth-shattering analysis here!!--ed. Hey, sometimes the mainstream analysis is correct!]
So, who's more deluded -- Rove or me? You be the judge!
UPDATE: Oliver Willis makes a fair point:
The presidency is failing because of the president. As he has said, he is "the decider", Rove is the adviser. Karl Rove has zero constitutional power or responsibility, while the president has truckloads. Bill Clinton's presidency excelled not because of folks like Begala, Carville, Dick Morris, etc. but because of Bill Clinton's decisions - and similarly Bill Clinton's catastrophic failings were not the doings of his advisers, but himself.ANOTHER UPDATE: The New York Times has a transcipt of Rove's gaggle with the press on Air Force One.
posted by Dan on 08.13.07 at 10:01 AM
Well, sure, in the same way James Monroe deserves credit for the Monroe Doctrine.
But in an age when the salient characteristic of American political life is the utter dominance of the business of government by the business of the permanent campaign, you can't understand what's going on by dwelling on the President's own actions. His political consultants do what he wants them to do, of course, but they also make possible what he wants to do.posted by: Zathras on 08.13.07 at 10:01 AM [permalink]
Rove makes an interesting comment about the Democrats and Vietnam, however the situation was somewhat different from the what has happened in Iraq.
Democrat trustworthiness on national security was always going to be damaged by Vietnam because it was a Democratic administration that got the US involved in the first place.
Democrats don't bear ultimate responsibility for sending the troops to Iraq and didn't have final say over the conduct of the war, so they aren't likely to be held responsible if the whole thing ends in ignominious defeat. There will undoubtedly be more than enough blame to go around.
In fact, Republican bungling in Iraq has created an opportunity for the Democrats to repeat the "peace with honor" strategy that helped Nixon into the Whitehouse.
While neither party is likely to escape looking bad over Iraq, I think Mr Rove is being profoundly optimistic in believing that it is the Democrats who will come out with their national security credentials tarnished.posted by: Steve on 08.13.07 at 10:01 AM [permalink]
Actually, I'd be interested in an analysis of the "senior officials" leaving administrations in their Nth years over the past 50 years.
Is the rate higher every year? Higher for Bush specifically? Actually not higher at all, just more attended to?posted by: Sigivald on 08.13.07 at 10:01 AM [permalink]
I'm just glad he's quitting, for whatever reason. Let's hope he fades off into oblivion and we never hear from the thug again.posted by: Shawn on 08.13.07 at 10:01 AM [permalink]
Joe Klein: Re-read YOUR history. If mere "involvement" were the problem, then you could go back to Truman, who was the first to send advisers there. But the public wasn't upset about that; they were upset about us actually fighting a war. And that was blamed (correctly) on JFK and especially LBJ, not Eisenhower or Truman.
We need to quit elevating these guys to the level of Gods - and the mainstream media, especially people like The Politico's John Harris - are the most guilty of this. Karl Rove is, historically, some freaking guy who worked in the White House. President Bush is the one who history should record as the ultimate "architect" of his own darn failure.
One thing I think is interesting is that while people like Dick Morris and James Carville got some attention, it was nothing like the focus on Rove (and before him, Atwater).
It's probably a political mistake for the Democrats; by blaming Rove, they vitiate their attacks on Bush.posted by: David Nieporent on 08.13.07 at 10:01 AM [permalink]
I think that part of the problem is that liberals, including reporters, simply can't believe that Republican presidents are not stupid, so they need to think up some other explanation for GOP success, and they focus on the strategists rather than the candidates/officeholders. Republicans don't do that; I mean, you just never heard Republicans going on ranting and raving about how they wanted Carville drawn and quartered. They focused their ire on Clinton.
Clinton did not bring Carville into the White House with him. Big difference.posted by: THS on 08.13.07 at 10:01 AM [permalink]
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