EDITOR'S NOTE: The younger years of George W. Bush have been examined in many books; Karl Rove's and Dick Cheney's youthful transgressions have not been exposed nearly as much. The following is an excerpt from the new book by Jackson Thoreau, Born to Cheat, which covers Cheney and Rove, as well as Bush. The book is available at area stores, or go to http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor/cheat.html
As Bush was sowing his oats on an Ivy League campus, Karl Rove was honing his dirty tricks in the College Republicans organization. While Bush came from a rich and politically-connected family that wasn't above cheating to get ahead, Rove's family was arguably more dysfunctional. Rove never knew his biological father, his stepfather was gay and divorced his mother when he was in college, and his mother later killed herself. Little wonder Rove could campaign against gays while embracing his homosexual stepfather and court the support of conservative religious fundamentalists while being agnostic, all with a straight face.
In published reports, Rove said he knew he was a Republican at the young age of nine when he supported Nixon over Kennedy in 1960. He paid for that support - by being beat up by a girl. "There was a little girl across the street who was Catholic and found out I was for Nixon, and she was avidly for Kennedy," Rove was quoted as saying in one report. "She put me down on the pavement and whaled on me and gave me a bloody nose. I lost my first political battle."
Rove started his dirty tricks on his debate team at Olympus High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. Before key debates, he would get some aides to carry in numerous boxes of index cards to intimidate the other side. On all but 20 or 30, nothing would be written on the cards. "It was all psychological," Emil Langeland, a fellow Rove debate team member, told authors James Moore and Wayne Slater.
When Rove was 19, his stepfather, Louis, divorced his mother and moved to California on Christmas Day, no less. Rove continued to have a "fairly close" relationship with his stepfather, even referring to him as "my father," Slater said. "By all accounts, and everyone I talked to, Karl would frequently see his dad, would go to California and see him, or the two sometimes would go on vacation," Slater said during a 2006 interview on National Public Radio. "It's unclear to me exactly when his father came out, though I suspect it was not long after leaving the family....People who are friends of his father said when Karl would visit he gave every indication of not being uncomfortable with the idea that his father was gay."
After his father died in 2004, Rove helped take care of his homosexual dad's affairs, then left and "went back to the issue at hand, which was really, the most effective anti-gay political campaign ever put together in a number of states designed to re-elect George Bush president of the United States," Slater said. "It really is a central sort of conflict, an interesting psychological dimension that he was so successful at being able to divide his personal feelings, personal attitudes on the one hand with the task at hand, which has always been, 'What does it take to crush the opposition? And I'll use it no matter what it is.'"At the University of Utah, Rove became president of the College Republican chapter but never graduated from college as he worked his way up the national organization's ladder. In 1968, he volunteered for Utah Republican Sen. Wallace Bennett's re-election campaign. In 1970, Rove worked on the campaign of Sen. Ralph Smith in Illinois. He also did more behind-the-scenes tricks for the Illinois Republican Party.
For instance, Rove posed as a supporter of Alan Dixon, a Democratic candidate for state treasurer in Illinois, and stole stationary from the campaign. He then created a flier that lied about offering free beer, food, and women at Dixon's campaign opening event on the official stationary and distributed thousands of copies to homeless centers and similar places. Hundreds of the homeless showed up, effectively disrupting the event. Dixon, who went on to win that election, later said of Rove's stunt: "It was a little upsetting." Rove never apologized.
With such a record, Rove became executive director of the College Republicans by 1971 and maintained an office at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Republican National Committee, which happened to be headed by none other that George H.W. Bush. Rove organized conferences on college campuses that instructed young Republicans how to do dirty tricks. At one in Kentucky in 1972, Rove recalled the Dixon trick with "considerable delight." That was a mere two months after the Watergate burglary.
In these seminars, Rove would bring up the Watergate break-in only as a reminder of not to get caught. Rove's dirty tricks at that time were substantial enough to attract the interest of Richard Davis, an assistant in the Watergate special prosecutor's office. John Dean, a Nixon aide, said he first heard of Rove from Davis, who was investigating sleazy tactics related to campaign ads. Davis "had Rove on his radar" and "suggested that Rove was a political operator who played at the edge of the rules, if not beyond them," Dean wrote.
At the same time, Rove worked with notorious Watergate dirty trickster Donald Segretti, who was responsible for planting false stories in a New Hampshire newspaper that accused Democratic presidential candidate Edmund Muskie's wife of being a heavy drinker and using profanity, while Muskie supposedly said a slur against French Canadians. Segretti similarly smeared other Democrats, including George McGovern, George Wallace, Shirley Chisholm, and McGovern's first vice presidential choice, Sen. Tom Eagleton. Rove lapped it all up.
When Dean asked a former colleague what Rove was like, he said Rove was "Haldeman and Ehrlichman, all in one." But Dean shied away from calling Rove Bush's "brain," saying that only "flatters Rove while getting Bush off the hook for the hardball dirty campaigns he runs."In the early 1970s, Rove befriended another prominent dirty trickster, Lee Atwater, who was president of his South Carolina college's Republican chapter. In 1973, they teamed up - with Rove as chairman of the College Republican National Committee and Atwater as executive director.
Rove's campaign to become chairman was filled with more dirty tricks. When the election came down to Rove and Robert Edgeworth of Michigan, Rove and Atwater convinced the election certification committee to throw out votes similar to how Rove and other Republicans got votes discarded in 2000 in Florida. Edgeworth charged that the committee threw out votes "often on the flimsiest of reasons." Both candidates claimed victory and made acceptance speeches.
With the decision coming down to H.W. Bush as RNC chairman, who Rove had already met, Bush announced his choice of Rove through a letter rather than face to face. Edgewater wrote Bush asking why, and Bush responded by accusing Edgewater of being disloyal to the party and leaking information to the media, which Edgewater said he did not do.A few months later after saying he would organize a special committee to investigate Rove, Bush instead appointed Rove as a special assistant at the RNC. That's where Rove met George W., beginning a devious alliance that would rock the world. Atwater would eventually apologize for his misdeeds too late on his deathbed. Rove and Bush would not. Cheney sucks on federal government teat
In another of the seemingly endless string of Republican hypocrises, Dick Cheney Jr. - who spent much of his political career railing against supposed government excess and environmental regulations - grew up sucking on the federal government conservation-wing teat. His father, Dick Sr., was a soil conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not to mention a Democrat.Following high school, Cheney attended Yale University, but he cheated his chance at an Ivy League education. He reportedly flunked out twice, in part due to drinking. He later shaped up enough to obtain bachelor's and master's degrees in political science from the University of Wyoming.
"He didn't dig in and study like the rest of us," Jacob Plotkin, a college roommate of Cheney's told the Yale Daily News. "He was in with the freshman football players, whose major activity was playing cards and horsing around and talking a lot.... And at night, he would go out and fool around with the freshman football players, play cards. He got by a lot on just native intelligence because he didn't go to classes."
Somehow, Cheney passed a multiple-choice psychology exam without attending classes, raising questions how he could do that without some underhanded help. Cheney was more interested in water balloon fights, even attracting a visit from campus police due to his hoard of water balloons in his bedroom.
In his early 20s, Cheney was twice convicted of driving while intoxicated in Wyoming. He did not serve any jail time, but his license was suspended for 30 days. He told The New Yorker that the arrests made him "think about where I was and where I was headed. I was headed down a bad road, if I continued on that course."
Cheney did not gain high marks for his interest in his fellow humans. "He has the least interest in human beings of anyone I have ever met," John Perry Barlow, a former supporter, told a Rolling Stone writer. Steve Billings, another former Yale roommate, summed it up thusly, "If I could ask Dick one question, I'd ask him how he could be so unempathetic."