Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rove at war, the war on Rove

At Newsweek, Howard Fineman has an excellent piece on Rove (both personal background and the build-up to Rovegate). It's quite long, but I highly recommend it. (Drum links to it at Political Animal, but without any commentary.) Key passages:

  • "In the World According to Karl Rove, you take the offensive, and stay there. You create a narrative that glosses over complex, mitigating facts to divide the world into friends and enemies, light and darkness, good and bad, Bush versus Saddam. You are loyal to a fault to your friends, merciless to your enemies. You keep your candidate's public rhetoric sunny and uplifting, finding others to do the attacking. You study the details, and learn more about your foes than they know about themselves. You use the jujitsu of media flow to flip the energy of your enemies against them. The Boss never discusses political mechanics in public. But in fact everything is political—and everyone is fair game."
  • "In a familiar Washington twist of fate, Rove's theory of politics is being turned against him—and he is being forced to deploy the Republican machine, which he built on Bush's behalf, for a more personal task: his own defense. A federal prosecutor is now coming to the climax of an investigation into whether any administration official committed a crime by disclosing the identity of a CIA agent—Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame—to reporters. The prosecutor may also be looking at whether anyone lied to the grand jury about the matter—the classic Washington crime of a cover-up. Democrats are in full cry, demanding that Rove be hauled before congressional-committee hearings, stripped of his security clearance, fired outright—or all three."
  • "It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all but erased by the Bush administration. In the months after 9/11, the Republican National Committee, a part of Rove's empire, had sent out a fund-raising letter that showed the president aboard Air Force One in the hours after the attack. Democrats howled, but that was the Bush Rove was selling in the re-election campaign: commander in chief. Now Wilson was getting in the way of that glorious story, essentially accusing the administration of having blundered or lied the country into war."
  • "If the polarities were reversed—if this were a Democratic White House—these are the kinds of breach-of-security questions for which Rove would be demanding swift answers. Which party was for protecting the shadow warriors in the war on terror? Rove would want to know."
  • "At the same time, the GOP machine he had built began clanking into gear. Rove has friends all over town, and the country—people he's put in office and, with ruthless efficiency, into key government and lobbying jobs. But they were slow to react, perhaps in part because the apparatus is built to attack more than defend. Last Monday, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, was seared to a crisp during his press briefing. Only the following day did GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman—whose entire career is a Rove creation—respond. Some of the party talking points had a vaguely Clintonesque feel to them: that Rove was merely trying to help the reporters, that he never actually mentioned Valerie Plame's name, that he didn't call the reporters, they had called him. The Democrats, eager to seize the rare piece of high ground on a national-security issue, kept up the fire. But since they have no subpoena power on the Hill—Rove's GOP is in charge there—they can't call him to testify. And the louder the Democrats screamed, the easier it was for Rove and his allies to dismiss the whole affair as just another Red-Blue partisan smackdown."
  • "As for Rove, friends say that he was shaken by the speed with which the Wilson story moved—and in a direction he didn't expect. He's used to being in control. But now all Rove can do is mark time until someone else—Patrick Fitzgerald—says what comes next. After his re-election victory last November, Bush called Rove the "Architect." Now the hunter has to wait with everyone else to see if he has become the hunted."

All bolds are my own. This is something of a follow-up to my recent Krugman post, but Fineman, whom I don't like as much as I used to (largely because he seemed to me to be getting far too soft as a reporter), provides a wonderfully comprehensive account of what Rovegate's all about (and, given Rove's background, how and why it all came about). Excellent stuff.

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