THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FAILURE The deflation of Karl Rove which started after the 2006 elections has widened and deepened with the announcement of his resignation. There is a giddy smugness to the punditry as Rove's various failings at achieving policy goals are listed in detail to expose and ridicule the mortal who masqueraded as god. From the attempted privatization of Social Security to the unpopular and unsuccessful immigration reform stretches a long string of missteps. The curtain has been pulled back and now even Fox News feels comfortable in referring to the erstwhile Boy Genius as "Turd Blossom." It turns out, Rove has been a wretched failure.
How is it that it was only 14 years ago that George Bush first appeared on the national political radar and has since won two elections for Governor of Texas and then two more for US President? What experience in government did he start with? What impeccable political instincts did he possess? What executive expertise, what inspirational leadership, what hunger to learn and absorb, what tireless energy for hard work fueled his meteoric rise? In which battlefield did he lose blood and gain toughness? What brilliant intellect, what oratorical prowess, what rapier wit, what brimming wisdom did he dazzle us with? Was there ever a politician who rose so fast and so high having any less to offer this nation than George Bush?
One must concede that the list of factors which contributed to Mr. Bush's rapid ascension is a very long one. What if the Supreme Court was not partisan? Or the Democrats knew how to field a candidate? Or Monica Lewinsky worked at the Dairy Queen? Take any one factor away and who knows what would have happened. But take away Karl Rove and it is utterly impossible to imagine a Bush presidency ever coming to pass. Without Rove, George Bush's life would have been relegated almost entirely to golf games and fishing trips.
A bloodless gambler who combined Lee Atwater's dirty fighting with Mike Deaver's image-making and added in his own boundless interest in the facts and figures of electioneering, Rove managed to create and sustain the illusion that a man who may have been historically the least qualified person ever for the job, was indeed presidential material. And even more incredibly, he sold almost half the American electorate on this fantastic illusion. In time, with tongues loosening and book advances beckoning, the dirty laundry of the Bush administration and its futile leader will be aired in damning detail, whereby Rove's successful illusion will be fully recognized for the monumental political achievement it was.
A couple of related points must be made.Success at achieving the impossible should always be viewed in context. After all, the Guiness Book is full of people who have defeated seemingly impossible odds. But dribbling a basketball for three days straight carries no serious consequences. Rove's political con has saddled this nation with a President whose decisions have caused catastrophic erosions in America's position in the world, the health of its military, the tenets of its government and constitution, the economic standing of most of its citizens, and countless other national assets.
The second point goes back to the issue posed in the opening paragraph. Is Rove a success or a failure? Discounting moral and ethical considerations, it is simply a case of the cake and the icing. All along, Rove's foremost objective was to take this most unlikely of candidates and guide him to the most powerful position in the world. This he did, and the cake was baked to perfection. But then the election expert tried his hand at policy matters and the icing turned out to be pretty lousy. It was an ill-advised reach that proved Rove was not omnipotent after all. How are the cake and the icing to be judged relatively? I suspect Rove's achievement in getting a man such as George Bush elected president will continue to amaze and mistify long after his role in failed policy decisions has faded from memory. To employ the ever-useful sports analogy, future generations will recall Michael Jordan as a basketball giant, and not as a failed baseball player.
An ironic postscript to the Rove story is the nickname bestowed upon him by that most ironic of men, George Bush. In tagging his good friend in that unflattering argot, Mr. Bush never recognized that Rove's relation to a turd blossom was not so much in being one as it was in cultivating and then foisting upon this nation the biggest turd blossom in its history.