What Karl Rove's Memoir Reveals About Bush Era

What he says, what he doesn't, why

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Everyone's favorite Bush-era GOP strategist Karl Rove just released his much-anticipated memoir, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. With the first reviews pouring in, the consensus seems to be that Rove reveals little in the way of new information (except for one much-discussed section on the Iraq invasion) but does comment at length about the politics of the Bush administration and beyond.

  • 'Act of Vengeance' That Defines Bush Era Time's Joe Klein calls it a work of "titanic pettiness" and "primarily an act of vengeance -- and, in that sense, unintentionally revealing about the nature of the Bush presidency." Klein explains, "the crucial revelation here is that when you make a political consultant your senior policy adviser, spin supplants substance, oppo research rules and winning the news cycle becomes more important than winning the war."

Very little of this should surprise observers of Rove in power or out of power, as a quotable White House aide and then as a Fox News pundit who has reliably attacked the Democrats. Rove's disinterest in policy or consequences of policy isn't surprising, either. ("I didn't pretend to be Carl von Clausewitz or Henry Kissinger, but I knew the Iraq War wasn't going well," Rove writes of his thinking in December 2006.) The historical value of the book itself is minimal. It functions, instead, as a test of whether Rove's combination of pique and pride will be helpful as Bush administration veterans argue that they spent eight years changing America for the better, over the cries of critics, only to watch their work be ruined by Barack Obama and his pack of elitist liberals.

  • Rove's Tellingly Hostile Diplomacy The Prospect's Alex Massie finds "a trivial but telling moment" in the somewhat hostile manner that Rove, upon arriving in Washington, dealt with the U.K. government. "[T]he light this shines on Rove's preferred operating style (and that of the Bush White House more generally, at least in its first term): even allies can't be trusted. Sure, it was hardly a secret that Blair and the rest of the Labour party would have preferred to have been dealing with President Gore, but Rove's default presumption that this meant the British government was suspect and untrustworthy is telling."
  • 'Less Memoir Than Hoax'  So comes the statement from no less than Joseph C.Wilson, husband of outed ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame. "His distortions and fabrications are consistent with his approach throughout this sordid and criminal affair. Wasting his opportunity to tell the truth, he offers absolutely nothing new, and his selective use of facts and quotes are a transparent effort to continue his long campaign to confuse people, unfortunately consistent with his past behavior. His book is a pathetically weak defense of the disastrous policies pursued by the Bush administration."
  • Revisions At Its Finest The Washington Post's Dana Milbank can hardly believe Rove's brazen spin, disowning everything from the failed Iraq invasion to the economic crisis to torture, which was "never authorized." Milbank issues an eye-rolling correction from his years covering the Bush White House: "CORRECTION: Every article about George W. Bush ever written by Dana Milbank was wrong. The Post regrets the error."
  • Why He's Wrong on Plame Scandal  Newsweek's investigative reporter Michael Isikoff dismantles Rove's "highly selective (and at times blatantly distorted) version" of the Plame CIA outing scandal. After going line-by-line through Rove's retelling and why it's wrong, Isikoff sighs, "In the vast scheme of things, Rove's distortions of the Plame episode are not likely to be remembered as his most grievous sins at the White House--or the biggest whoppers in his book."
  • Loyal to a Fault Al Jazeera's John Terrett finds a nice way of putting it: Karl Rove is really, really loyal to his old bosses at the White House. "But publication of Courage and Consequence does set the stage for the release of the eagerly awaited White House memoirs of Vice President Dick Cheney and, of course, of President Bush himself."
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