Karl Rove ‘Example How Not to Do It’

Karl Rove ‘Example How Not to Do It’ Photo GOP strategist Ed Rollins opines, “I think the legacy is that Karl Rove will be a name that’ll be used for a long, long time as an example of how not to do it.”

To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it all depends on what the meaning of “it” is.

If we’re talking of Rove as a campaign runner, it’s nonsensical. Getting George W. Bush elected governor twice and president twice is certainly more likely to be looked at as a positive model than, say, the career of Ed Rollins.

If, on the other hand, we’re speaking of Rove the domestic policy adviser, Rollins is on more solid ground. The politicization of everything, up to and including national security policy, had already been raised to odious heights under the Clinton administration. But Rove helped take it over the cliff, destroying the administration’s credibility and ability to govern.

Two related questions come to mind:

  • How much of the blame goes to Rove, how much goes to Bush and other senior administration figures, and how much was simply the continuation of a trend? There’s no way of knowing how much of this would we have seen under a President Gore or a President Kerry.
  • What lessons will be learned by those who follow? My suspicion is that will be one of optics rather than substance. That is, the focus will be on doing what Rove did but doing it more cleverly.

Ultimately, Rove’s name is likely to be forgotten and the failures of the Bush administration will be the president’s alone. Aside from the occasional cabinet secretary, presidential advisers simply disappear into the ether of history.

Quote via Andrew Sullivan. Photo via Climate Progress.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    destroying the administration’s credibility and ability to govern

    and maybe the Republican Party.

  2. James Joyner says:

    and maybe the Republican Party.

    It has survived much worse, certainly. But it cost a Republican majority in Congress, perhaps for a generation.

  3. Triumph says:

    If we’re talking of Rove as a campaign runner, it’s nonsensical. Getting George W. Bush elected governor twice and president twice is certainly more likely to be looked at as a positive model than, say, the career of Ed Rollins.

    How come Bush doesn’t get any credit for being the most formidable politician of the 21st century? Giving Rove the credit for Bush’s genius is like saying Phil Jackson is the reason the Bulls won 8 NBA championships.

    Rove, like Jackson, was just along for the ride.

    Bush is the Michael Jordan of presidents and politicians.

  4. GOP strategist Ed Rollins opines, “I think the legacy is that Karl Rove will be a name that’ll be used for a long, long time as an example of how not to do it.”

    Did Mr. Rollins then go on to say that Democrats should strive for and emulate the, ahem, success of Al From?

  5. legion says:

    Actually, I think Rove is more of an indictment of modern American celebrity culture. When someone becomes famous for being very successful at one thing, people tend to assume they’re good at _anything_, and don’t question the famous person’s opinions on subjects they really have no knowledge of.

    As James notes, he got W where he is today, both literally and figuratively – he got him elected several times against the odds, but then his pronouncements became unquestionable, and he – as James notes – led everyone off a cliff.

    To take Triumph’s snark a step farther, think back ten years ago… how many Americans would _really_ have voted for Michael Jordan for high office if he’d run? No offense to MJ, but a lot more than I feel comfortable with…

  6. Bithead says:

    If, on the other hand, we’re speaking of Rove the domestic policy adviser, Rollins is on more solid ground. The politicization of everything, up to and including national security policy, had already been raised to odious heights under the Clinton administration

    … and would, most certainly be a tactic that would continue to be used by the Democrats, and has been as we have seen. To the extent that rove got into that mode was a response to, and not a cause of, the degree to which such had already been politicized.

  7. Christopher says:

    WHAT are you talking about, James? Your premise is completely wrong. Use your brain instead of what mainstream media and polls tell you.

    The “failure” of the Bush administration? Hmmm…let’s think. You mean the failure to keep Americans “upbeat” and supportive about the war on terror, particularly in Iraq that they AND the democrats supported (and voted eyes wide open in support of sending our soldiers to war and possibly their deaths)and only George Bush has shown perseverance in continuing this necessary fight? You mean a continually expanding economy the Bush never got credit for in the first place even though he inherited the Clinton recession, the cataclysmic event of 9/11 and now the housing bubble collapse (and now most economists predict NO recession this year)? You mean the rocketing revenue he brought along through tax cuts even though democrats (along w republicans) voted for more and more spending while Bush had his attention on 2 war fronts?

    I guess based on all that then the Bush presidency has been a “failure”. Maybe if Obama gets in, THEN we will see what a true failure looks like.

  8. Steve Plunk says:

    I have to agree with Christopher whole heartedly.

    What failures specifically? What are the failures engineered by Rove? How much failed legislation can be attributed to a Democratic congress? How much of the bad news out there is not the responsibility of a president?

    In some cases it is better to get nothing and do nothing instead of compromising away principled positions. Getting things done just to say you got something done is not always success.

    Let’s face it, Rove has been made a demon by the left for so long a certain percentage of the population believes it by default. The whole idea of a puppet master is appealing to liberals as well as the uneducated. For those willing to look closely all you will find is an adviser doing his job.

  9. davod says:

    Christopher and Steve: I can only imagine you both are on diets. No bullshit today diets.
    I agree with you. It is easy to carp on and on because that is what is pushed 24/7.

    It takes a little effort to be balanced.

    What blew Bush, and the Republicans out of the water were his health care and immigration policies. I do not know how much involvement Rove had in formulating these policies. However, considering the President’s own church had been vocal about reforming both items, isn’t it just possible that the impetus came from the President.

    That, and the worst ever communications operation on everything.

  10. How much of the animus towards Bush and Rove is animated by their failures and how much by their successes?

  11. brainy435 says:

    Someone needs a reality check. The Republican party was driven off the cliff by congressional Republicans, many of whom are apparently still trying to drive the wreck down further.

  12. […] James Joyner has written down some interesting thoughts on Rove’s legacy: If we’re talking of Rove as a campaign runner, […]

  13. Hal says:

    Bithead, et al, in their smug defiance of reality give me great hope that it will be much longer than a generation before we’ll see Rove’s kind of party again. Courage, y’all. You’re about to go down in history, never to be seen again in polite company.