Karl Rove strategy memo to Bill Clements, Jr., September 4, 1985: As a contrast to Mark Penn's memos, here's a fun piece of political arcana: a Karl Rove strategy memo written to former Texas governor Bill Clements, Jr., on the eve of the 1986 gubernatorial race. Clements was elected governor in 1978 but lost his bid for reelection. He was attempting a comeback. Note the tone of bracing honesty: Rove lays out his client's "potentially explosive" weaknesses, including arrogance and bad press relations. Then he explains how they can be overcome. (Let's forgive Rove the hackneyed Napoleon quote--Clements won the race.)
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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.