D. Dowd Muska


The Man Who Would Be GOP King

September 13, 2012

Pudgy, balding, twice divorced, and a college dropout, Karl Rove is a thoroughly unimpressive man.

But left-loon “investigative reporter” Craig Unger believes that Rove has transitioned from a loyal Bush-family flunkie to the most powerful politico in America -- the architect of “a master plan” and “grandiose vision” to forge a “historic realignment of the nation’s political landscape, the transformation of America into effectively a one-party state.”

Most of Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power (Scribner; 320 pages; $26) is undiluted inanity. Moonbat conspiracy theories abound, including the politically inspired prosecution of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, the Bush campaign’s theft of Ohio’s 2004 electoral votes, and the mysterious death of an IT guru involved in “a powerful high-tech weapon ... that provided legitimate websites for conservatives, but also hosted sensitive material for nonpartisan government agencies and committees.” (One of Unger’s sources for the vote-manipulation allegation: a mandolin-strumming “wandering minstrel” who “spends several months a year clearing trails in the Adirondacks.”) It’s disappointing that Boss Rove doesn’t dig deeper -- didn’t its subject kill Caylee Anthony, cause Japan’s tsunami, and break up Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, too?

Yet skip past the fabulism -- exaggerations and innuendos that even MSNBC, NPR, and Mother Jones have either debunked or ignored -- and Boss Rove gets interesting. On page 202, the author begins a valuable examination of Rove’s significant role in the 2010 midterm elections and his machinations in the wild race for the Republican nomination to challenge Barack Obama.

In the summer of 2007, Unger writes, Rove’s “departure from the White House was ignominious at best. The presidency he had built was widely regarded as a historic disaster. He was depleted physically, emotionally, and financially. He was still hounded by the press. And his marriage was in tatters.” Worse still for the man whose “entire life had been about politics,” John McCain would go on to secure the GOP’s presidential nod -- thus, Rove had “no horse to ride” in 2008.

The neoconservative media complex gave Rove two sweet gigs: regular interviews on the Fox News Channel and a column in The Wall Street Journal. But getting back in the game was his mission, and Rove began “to build an independent base within the party in which he would have autonomy and be able to control the purse strings when the right candidate surfaced.”

American Crossroads, the multi-pronged, highly networked entity assembled by Rove, launched in early 2010 and “in just one month, [it] had obtained commitments of more than $30 million -- about four times what the [Republican National Committee] had in its coffers.” The Super PAC threw its ad-buy weight around in the midterms, and helped hand the Democrats a terrible thumping. Rove and his empire, it appeared, had what it would take to oust an increasingly unpopular president.

But like many GOP power brokers, Rove hadn’t welcomed the eruption of the Tea Party. The grassroots rebellion complicated his quest to find 2012’s best pony. Rove, Republican slime mold Roger Stone told the author, “dislikes party elements he can’t control. He can’t control Sarah Palin. These are the people he calls kooks. He likes establishment, inside the Beltway types.”

So throughout the GOP’s presidential primaries, Unger reports, Rove “patiently watched and waited, content to sit back and quietly undermine [Palin, Trump, Cain, Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum], all the while halfheartedly backing presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, knowing that Romney would ultimately have to come to him.” When the GOP finally settled on its man, several of Rove’s “former operatives” -- most notably Ed Gillespie -- obtained “key positions” with Romney.

Where Republicans will stand on Wednesday, November 7th, 2012, remains an open question. But a GOP-majority Senate appears doubtful, and Rove’s preferred presidential candidate looks more and more like a loser.

A Romney defeat will make Republican World a very, very ugly place. Talk-radio personality Laura Ingraham recently demanded a “shut down” of the party if Obama wins: “Election after election, we hire people who have lost previous campaigns, who have run campaigns that have failed, who have messaged campaigns where the message fell flat, and they keep getting re-hired.”

Unger’s hysteria notwithstanding, Karl Rove isn’t a political demigod. An Obama second term would send the strategist George W. Bush affectionately dubbed “Turd Blossom” back into exile, and this time, a reemergence would be far more difficult. Then, perhaps, principled donors, activists, and voters might muster the resources to turn a feckless GOP into a weapon for smaller government.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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