Outside editorials: Sounding off on Rove

Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wizardry was limited to winning elections

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This editorial appeared in the Charlotte Observer:

Some political advisers are good at winning elections, others at governing, but only a few at both. Karl Rove, a top aide to President Bush who announced his resignation Monday, was a wizard at election strategy, but in dealing with Congress he proved to be what Harry Potter fans would call a muggle. With no more elections ahead, President Bush may do better without him.

The president's first big legislative initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act, was a model for moving forward in concert with Congress. The bill was shaped in a bipartisan conference in Austin before his inauguration. Congress swiftly approved it with ample Democratic support.

After that, the Bush administration switched tactics, using the Republican majority in Congress to ram through legislation with no regard for whether any Democrats supported it. That worked on popular proposals, such as tax cuts and the Medicaid prescription benefit, but it didn't work on tough issues when some Republicans as well as many Democrats were dubious.

And Rove's lack of rapport with GOP congressional leaders showed when President Bush pushed for overhaul of the Social Security system. The White House had done little groundwork in Congress to prepare for what was sure to be a highly controversial proposal. As a result, even Republican leaders didn't give it serious consideration.

President Bush now faces two major challenges - the war in Iraq and creating a legislative legacy. Rove would be no help in the first and a liability in the second. In fact, many in Congress are angry over his presumed role in the firing of the U.S. attorneys and other actions. He picked a good time to leave.

The architect of Bush strategy leaves

This editorial appeared in the Sacramento Bee:

Karl Rove personifies what has gone wrong with the Bush presidency.

Every White House has political operatives who coordinate policy and political activities. But in the Bush administration, the line between politics and policy has become so blurred as to be indistinguishable. That is largely the handiwork of Rove, who has announced his resignation as White House deputy chief of staff and senior political adviser effective Aug. 31.

Bush built the White House structure around Rove to ensure that partisan politics would drive policy, with a number of insidious results. With Rove signing off on personnel picks and presidential appointments, important positions have been filled by political hacks. As a result, the Justice Department and other executive branch agencies are often pressed to act as if they're part of the Republican National Committee.

Developing and implementing policy has fallen by the wayside. John Dilulio, an assistant to the president during Bush's first term, called this "the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis" - people with little knowledge, experience or interest in crafting or effectively administering policies, but highly attuned to political communications and strategy.

Worse, Rove has pressed executive departments into electioneering and even vote suppression. Rove's office fanned out to agencies to tell staff how they could bolster Republican fortunes in upcoming elections. And, as is slowly coming out in congressional investigations, Rove has been obsessed with using "voter fraud" as a hammer to suppress votes in key battleground states.

In the end, all of this is more about Bush than about Rove. The over-politicization of the White House is Bush's doing - and will be his presidential legacy.

Master of elections but failure on policy

This editorial appeared in the Detroit Free Press:

Liberals have much to rejoice about - and conservatives, much to fret over - in the departure of Karl Rove from American electoral politics. For more than a decade, Rove has been the left's great tormenter at the polls, someone whose determination and savvy always seemed a step ahead and proved nearly unbeatable.

Like him or despise him, his impact on the political process was unmistakable, even revolutionary.

Bush gave Rove added policy responsibility after Rove crafted his remarkable 2004 re-election campaign, one in which he surpassed his 2000 vote totals despite an unpopular war and a flagging economy, and in which he gained seats in both houses of Congress - an advantage almost no second-term president enjoys.

But Rove never proved effective in the new role, even with a Republican majority in Congress. The president's Social Security reform package, Rove's first foray as a policy wonk, crashed and burned after the White House failed to convince people that a market-based retirement solution would be preferable to the government program.

Rove will be remembered, and copied, in campaign circles for an eternity. But as a force for real change in America, he's eminently forgettable.

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