THE MARK OF ROVE
David Broder is concerned that Karl Rove, whom he likes and considers brilliant, is getting too famous.
Because others in the tight inner circle around Bush are either self-effacing (as is the case with Chief of Staff Andy Card) or have very well-defined responsibilities (as with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice) or are caught in a revolving door (the economic team), it is very easy for the outside world to assume that almost everything Bush does is Rove’s handiwork. Nick Lemann refers to this phenomenon as “the Mark of Rove,” and clearly recognizes its dangers.
Voters assume — and willingly accept — that politics is part of the president’s job. But they would like to think that big policies — tax cuts, for example, or a war with Iraq — are being made on their merits. When the public learned that well-publicized political consultants James Carville and Paul Begala were at the White House table arguing the first Clinton economic plan with Lloyd Bentsen and Bob Rubin, it did not sit well.
Democrats are only too happy to help Rove hype his own role in this White House. Who put him in charge? they ask. Titles like “Bush’s Brain,” given to one of the biographies, feed that perception.
Rove is at the point where a single leaked memo showing his hand in a controversial presidential action could make him vulnerable. And if that happens, it won’t be the president who has to step aside.
This is an interesting problem. Clearly, having “a passion for anonymity” is a good characteristic of a presidential advisor. But this president doesn’t seem to mind being occasionally upstaged by the likes of Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, since he’ll ultimately get credit if things go well. Rove has been a Bush alter ego for years. Presumably, they have a comfortable relationship. I see no evidence–and Broder doesn’t even charge–that Rove is seeking the limelight or the credit. I suspect he’ll be around until, oh, late January 2009.