A reader writes:
You hit the nail on the head in your summation of Rove's career. He is a brilliant tactician, but a horrid strategist. He knows the minutiae of politics and the tactics it takes to put together a campaign, but he never had the "vision" to see beyond the next campaign, to see the logical destination of the policies he advocated.
He pushed Bush to adopt the No Child Left Behind, the Prescription Drug Entitlement, and was complicit in runaway spending. He also did about everything you can to alienate the libertarian-minded wing of the GOP to foster his Christianist oriented base. While he was "successful" in getting Bush elected in 2000 (more the fault of Gore's failure to embrace Clinton's records and due to Ralph Nader's siphoning votes from Gore in Florida), and in 2004 (more of Kerry being a god-awful candidate), he led to a breakup of the coalition that had been the political majority in this country since 1980. By allowing the big government, bedroom invading, and deliberately divisive hardcore social conservatives to become ascendant, Rove ultimately succeeded in driving away the libertarian, small government and moderate members of this governing coalition. In the end, these voters came to be more repulsed with Rove than they were with the prospects of Democrats in office.
The irony is that the only person whose "reputation" as political genuis is as undeserving as Rove's is Bill Clinton.
Clinton, like Rove, is a brilliant political tactician, especially skilled in the arts of the campaign. Clinton was also smart enough to realize, unlike Rove, that in order to be successful you had to keep the ideologues just happy enough not to stay at home while generally governing from the middle. However, Clinton's self-inflicted and utterly unnecessary foibles and follies doomed his Presidency to "what might have been" status. He never had the time or energy to tackle entitlement refore, Social Security reform or pressing international problems in his second term because he was just fighting to stay alive. In many ways, his foibles also cost Gore (and the country) in 2000.
Both are brilliant at the art of campaigning, but both, in my opinion, are lousy political leaders in the big scheme of things.
(Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty.)
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